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Navy Fathoms the Possibilities of Biofuels



When the U.S. Navy was established in 1775, its success on the seas depended largely on a renewable energy source – wind. Since then, the Navy has seen coal, steam, diesel and nuclear energy power its vessels. And now, it is weighing anchor on a new source – advanced biofuels.

Advanced biofuels are energy sources derived from a wide range of waste-based materials such as animal manure, food wastes, agricultural and forest wastes, municipal solid waste and crops like algae, corn, and sugar beets.

The Navy recognizes energy security as a national security issue and has set aggressive goals to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. One way to meet those goals is using alternative fuels. In 2012, it launched its Great Green Fleet initiative demonstrating the effectiveness of alternative fuel blends during a large-scale exercise in the Pacific Ocean. The service upped the ante in January, sending the John C. Stennis strike group on a seven-month deployment with several ships – the guided-missile destroyers Chung-Hoon, Stockdale and William P. Lawrence, and guided-missile cruiser Mobile Bay – operating on an alternative fuel made from 10 percent beef tallow and 90 percent marine diesel.

The Navy says that diversifying its energy sources increases the operational flexibility of its ships and strengthens their ability to provide a global presence.

The Navy’s interest in advanced biofuels to support its operations goes back years. In 2003, the Navy entered a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Biodico, a company that specializes in the design, production and operation of sustainable biorefineries. The collaboration expanded in 2012, when the Navy, supported by the California Energy Commission, entered into a new agreement with Biodico to develop and evaluate advanced biofuels and bioenergy.

Recently, the Navy and Energy Commission helped fund Biodico’s Westside’s new facility in Five Points, CA. It is the world’s first fully sustainable liquid biofuel facility and will produce up to 20 million gallons of biodiesel per year.

The California Energy Commission and the Department of the Navy will meet at Stanford University Oct. 12 to formalize their ongoing partnership that will help Navy and Marine Corps installations in the state transition to renewable energy alternatives to meet California and the Department of Defense climate and energy goals.

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California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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