Action Moves Navy in Hawaii to Greater Energy Security

By Rear Adm. Frank Ponds
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific

Solar panels form part of the Renewable Hydrogen Fueling and Production Station on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. It is the only hydrogen station in Hawaii and about 30 hydrogen-powered vehicles use the JBPHH station. (U.S. Navy Photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker/Released)

In October, our Commander in Chief declared “Energy Action Month” in order to achieve greater energy security. During Energy Action Month we are asked to “think globally … lead locally.”

The Navy is already leading efforts to accelerate from “awareness” to “action” in order to save energy, water and money for American taxpayers.

This idea of focusing on action to achieve greater energy security is especially timely.

On October 13th, the Navy commemorated our 237th birthday. It was an opportunity to focus on our Navy’s legacy of innovation and commitment to new technologies, including warfighting techniques and platforms. In 237 years, we have moved from wooden sailing ships to steam-powered steel hulls and nuclear power, from cannons and battleships to naval aviation, submarines and advanced surface warfare capability with Aegis guided missiles.

Here in Hawaii, ever mindful of the call for action to achieve greater energy security, we embrace innovation while preserving history and maintaining force readiness.

Historically, wars are often fought over resources. World War II in the Pacific began because of Imperial Japan’s aggression against other Asian countries in search of petroleum and raw materials. The United States and our allies prevented the importing of oil and minerals into Japan in the late 1930s, leading directly to the attack of Dec. 7, 1941.*

Our service members in the field are at greater risk because of a dependency on fossil fuels.

As Senator Daniel K. Inouye has pointed out, “Our sons and daughters have fought and died in the desert” in order to “stabilize the Middle East and to safeguard democracy” — in part because of oil.

Sen. Inouye is a Medal of Honor recipient from World War II and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee; he speaks with credibility and insight. He commends the Department of Defense’s investment in alternative energy and supports the Navy’s innovative approaches in adapting new technologies and methods on conserving and generating renewable energy.

Our energy security initiatives here in Hawaii can serve as a tribute to our warfighters, past and present.

Working with other services and agencies, we are implementing the Joint Energy Security Initiative in Hawaii to continue our efforts to achieve greater energy security and sustainability. The Navy in Hawaii is working with our partners to evaluate different types of renewable energy, including wind, wave, photovoltaic, biofuels and geothermal.

We are looking at all available and acceptable sites for our most effective renewable energy option in southern Oahu – energy from the sun. We are evaluating sites at Waipio Peninsula, West Loch and at the Joint Base.

Done right, we can preserve history and protect areas, including the former runway at Ford Island, as a tribute. In the first year of operation, that one solar array at Ford Island would save taxpayers $1.5M.

Another innovative approach that is working for the Navy is the Renewable Energy Conservation Program — a way for military residents in public-private venture housing to do their part to reduce excessive energy use.

Navy Region Hawaii and our Forest City partners served as the pilot program for RECP, which is now being instituted worldwide. Families now have an incentive to save electricity, and they are doing their share.

This past summer we hosted RIMPAC 2012, in which the whole world watched the Navy demonstrate advanced biofuels in the “Great Green Fleet.”

Recent awards are proof that our commands in Hawaii are demonstrating their ability, as one team, to manage energy and water resources. Each of our installations in Hawaii and several area afloat commands received recognition directly from the Secretary of the Navy this month for energy and water management.

This is a force readiness issue. The reasons to act are clear. The time to act is now.

We all need to work together to meet national, state, and Secretary of the Navy renewable energy sustainability goals as we face ever-growing fuel costs and budgetary challenges in the years ahead.

Let’s continue to lead and take action together.

[*Numerous sources, including Alan Schom’s “The Eagle and the Rising Sun” and W. G. Beasley’s “The Japanese Experience: A Short History of Japan.”]