Acting Assistant Secretary of U.S. Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment Visits California Navy Base

Acting Assistant Secretary of U.S. Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment Visits California Navy Base

Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment toured Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Oct. 15.

Roger Natsuhara spoke with installation and regional leaders about energy security and the way ahead in meeting the secretary of the Navy’s energy goals.

NBVC was the only Navy installation on Natsuhara’s schedule, which included visits to Marine Corps facilities in Twentynine Palms and Barstow, Calif., and Yuma, Ariz.

Leaders from across the facility joined regional leadership from Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southwest (NAVFAC SW) in briefing Natsuhara, focusing on the great strides being made in renewable energies and environmental programs aboard NBVC.

“I really want to hear from you,” Natsuhara said. “We’re shaping our policy. I can do that from Washington, but I don’t think you want me to. You guys are the experts.”

NAVFAC Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC), NAVFAC SW, NBVC and Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC-PHD) all briefed Natsuhara regarding energy efficient technologies and processes under development and in use. Covering everything from NAVFAC EXWC’s biofuel development partnership with BioDico to NSWC-PHD’s use of a biofuel mix in its Self-Defense Test Ship to wind and solar projects across the facility, the briefs gave a broad view of the many technologies being developed, tested and used aboard NBVC.

Natsuhara praised the advances, then asked, “How do we integrate all these different technologies and find the right balance?”

“The Navy has some unique bases that are really very different than other services,” he said, pointing to remote, isolated locations like Diego Garcia, Guantanamo Bay and San Nicolas Island. “These are not wartime bases. We have to be more efficient.”

Several facilities around the globe have the capacity to generate large amounts of renewable energy, Natsuhara said, but don’t necessarily use it efficiently. Without options for storing generated energy, much of it goes to waste.

“Storage is a game-changer,” said Chris Parry, NAVFAC SW energy manager.

“Whoever can develop affordable, effective storage for renewable energy, that’s the next Bill Gates,” agreed Capt. Cliff Maurer, commanding officer of NAVFAC SW.

NBVC and NAVFAC EXWC are preparing to test one storage option at San Nicolas Island. A $15.3 million project will install seven 100-kw wind turbines on the island during the next year. NAVFAC EXWC will fund the installation of a zinc-bromide battery with up to one megawatt of storage capacity, monitoring its success and applicability across the fleet.

Larger wind turbines have been used at other facilities, but according to Parry, there’s an economy of scale that comes from using more of the smaller, less complex machines.

“Maintenance is just simpler,” he said.

Capt. Larry Vasquez, NBVC commanding officer, took Natsuhara out to SNI to get a first hand look at the island and discuss some of its challenges and successes. In addition to visiting the future site of the wind turbine project, Natsuhara took the opportunity to see the island’s reverse osmosis (RO) facility, which provides potable water for SNI’s residents.

“This RO plant is a powerful weapon for peace,” said Hal Meadows, NBVC Public Works Department. “You can reproduce this system anywhere and make water for the people. It was used as a model for the system in Djibouti.”

Natsuhara asked about water quality.

“It’s more pure than snow. Our water is of a higher quality than most municipal sources, so our Sailors can be confident their water is safe and healthful,” Meadows said.

Finding innovative, cost-effective solutions to power and water supply issues is key to operating an energy-efficient fleet, Natsuhara said.

“The Department of the Navy is looked at as the Department of Defense leader for energy programs,” he added. “We have a lot of credibility because of the work you do here.”

Naval Today Staff,October 18, 2012; Image: US Navy