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Published on November 13th, 2015 | by Tina Casey


Take The US Navy’s Word For It: Clean Energy Creates Jobs

November 13th, 2015 by  

If you blinked, you missed it: a new report released earlier this week outlines how transitioning to clean energy will “drive economic growth for decades, create well-paying jobs and increase household incomes.” The report, called Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States, has made barely a ripple in the media pond, probably because it was commissioned by the partisan super PAC NextGen Climate America.

Pathways to Deep Decarbonization, or not, clean energy jobs are surging and there is no end in sight, thanks partly to Obama Administration initiatives that spur private sector investment. Yesterday we discussed the “invisible” solar jobs being created by innovative startups with an assist from the Department of Energy Catalyst program. Now let’s take a look at another federal program aimed at spurring innovation — and creating new jobs — in the clean energy field.

Navy clean energy and hydrogen from seawater

Clean Energy Jobs From The US Navy

The US Navy and Marine Corps have been front and center in advocating for climate action under the leadership of Secretary of the Navy Ray Maybus, a passionate spokesperson for clean energy.

In the latest development, earlier this month the Department of the Navy announced the launch of a new clean energy initiative called NEPTUNE (Naval Enterprise Partnership Teaming with Universities for National Excellence).

Here’s the rundown from the US Office of Naval Research (didn’t know we had one of those, did you?)

NEPTUNE is a two-year pilot program providing funding to four universities, the U.S. Naval Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School. Its goals are to help the Navy and Marine Corps discover ways to improve energy conservation, generate renewable energy and implement energy-efficient technologies—while giving active-duty military, military students and veterans the chance to immerse themselves in university-level research.

The goal is to support the Navy’s broader goal of creating a “culture of energy innovation” throughout the force, by developing a force of trained professionals who have the background to invent and implement changes in the way the Navy procures, generates and uses energy.

Neptune also emphasizes teamwork and collaboration — the twin pillars of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

The Navy has already signed on Arizona State University and Purdue University to NEPTUNE, and Purdue has already taken the ball and run with it. The school already has plans in the work to put its $2 million share of NEPTUNE funding into establishing its new NEPTUNE Center for Power and Energy Research.

Big Thinkers For Clean Energy

In an echo of the aforementioned Catalyst program, Purdue’s NEPTUNE center is focused on supporting innovators. It’s also worth noting here that the current round of Catalyst startups are working on solutions that democratize access to solar energy, a holistic approach shared by the NEPTUNE Center. Here’s the rundown from Purdue:

Under the program, Purdue’s NEPTUNE Center for Power and Energy Research aims to deliver new domain experts with the following characteristics: deep knowledge base in an energy-related discipline; ability to work in an interdisciplinary “team science” environment; mirroring societal diversity; and prior exposure to Navy culture.

NEPTUNE also supports a clean energy agreement between Purdue and the Navy, aimed at converting the Navy and Marine Corps to 50 percent biofuel and other alternative energy by 2020.

Seven New Energy Projects For The US Navy

The Purdue Center is focusing on seven project areas, only one of which directly addresses clean energy, so we’ll be interested to see what the lineup is for the three other NEPTUNE schools.

Purdue’s clean energy project is aimed at developing a new catalyst for a portable hydrogen generating system, using water as an alternative to natural gas. Here’s the rundown from Purdue:

The proposed research taps into the ubiquity of water and the versatility of fuel cells to develop an innovative, robust, and light-weight power source. We will develop an on-demand hydrogen-generation cartridge based on the catalyzed hydrolysis of ammonia borane (AB). Hot-swappable and connected to a PEM fuel cell, the cartridge will be designed for ease-of-use with any water source.

With cost and weight as major drivers in the design process, the proposed system will be based on the localized and in-situ decomposition of AB using an acidic cation exchange resins. Whether for expeditionary forces or for robotic applications, the opportunity to use the environment as a means of generating power will provide substantial versatility as well as weight and volume savings compared to current options thus enabling new and longer Naval missions.

The research complements the Navy’s ongoing work with water-enabled hydrogen production, including a modestly sized device that provides a two-fer, capturing carbon dioxide from seawater while generating hydrogen as a byproduct.

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Photo: E-CEM Carbon Capture via US Navy. 

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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