Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


US Navy is Building a Green Fleet

The US Navy's alternative-fuel powered RCB-X

The Tea Partiers may not understand how clean energy fits in with national security. But the folks whose lives are on the line certainly do – and the Army and Navy are spearheading a huge effort to break their addiction to fossil fuels.

“Every time we make changes to improve the efficiencies of our engines or systems or we use alternative sources of power, we get better and we make people safer,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit this week.

The high cost of fossil fuels

As reported by cnet’s Martin LaMonica, Mabus told the gathering of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) that the cost of fossil fuels was just too high, on a number of levels:

  • Simple dollars and cents – in Afghanistan, fuel (including transport) is the single biggest dollar cost to operations. When the price of oil jumped $30 a barrel, that added $1 billion to the Navy’s budget. Recently, oil has set an all-time high in the $110/barrel range.
  • Security – Getting the oil to bases and the battlefield is a logistical nightmare. And it makes the Navy reliant on unstable sourcs. “Our dependence on fossil fuels creates strategic, operational, and tactical vulnerabilies for our forces and makes them too susceptible to price and supply shocks caused by instability or natural disasters in volatile areas of the world where most of our fossil fuel is produced,” he said.
  • Lives – “The Army did a study and found that out of every 24 fuel convoys we use, a soldier or marine is killed or wounded guarding that convoy. That’s a high price to pay for fuel.”

Hot pursuit… of alternatives

In the face of that hard reality, the Navy has been pushing for better options:

  • One Afghan base has already cut diesel electric generation by installing solar panels.
  • Rollup solar panels are going out on foot patrols, which used to have to carry 700 pounds of backup batteries for all the new digital tech they use – Mabus noted that in the Vietnam era a patrol carried 1 radios; now it’s 30 to 50.
  • The  Great Green Fleet program aims to convert 50 percent of the Navy’s energy use to alternatives by 2020. The RCB-X, pictured at the top of the page, is powered by a blend that includes 50 percent algae-based alternative fuel.
  • In the same time frame, the Navy will bring half of its thousands of worldwide bases up to zero net-energy use.
  • At the summit, Mabus announced a partnership with the Department of Energy to work on grid energy storage options to improve reliability (and cut fossil fuel use). One possible option: Mobile storage units that could recharge vehicles .

LaMonica noted that there is some opposition to these Navy projects (including a recent Rand report that questioned the benefits of alternative fuels). But, he reports,

Mabus… said that all major energy transitions in the history of the Navy were considered too expensive and too risky by military top brass, including the move from sail to coal.

The bigger risk is that in the current budget-cutting frenzy in Congress, ARPA-E won’t get the funding it needs to push these projects through.

The Navy is probably fine (Congressional Republicans seem fine with throwing money at anything the military wants to do), but speaking at the summit, Alaska’s Senator Lisa Murkowski warned that ARPA-E’s budget was unlikely to survive unscathed.

More on alternative energy in the military:

(Photo credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gregory N. Juday)

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Written By

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue.


You May Also Like


After stumbling on biofuel, algae finds its footing and steps up to help the concrete industry cut its carbon footprint, too.

Climate Change

Steel will not remotely be a constraint for global transformation of energy over the coming decades. We make vastly more of it per year...

Green Economy

New plant-based alternatives are pushing the envelope on sustainable fashion, and pushing petrochemicals out of the picture.

Clean Power

With more scrapping and more direct reduction using lower carbon technologies such as Midrex' DRI and HYBRIT every decade, and the likely creation of those...

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.