The U.S. Navy recently announced the rollout of a climate action plan, taking aim at energy consumption and resiliency as part of a broader decarbonization timeline. The report arrives in response to an executive order from the current administration that directed agencies throughout the federal government to develop comprehensive plans to meet upcoming carbon reduction targets. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65% by 2030 and 100% by 2050. This announcement follows a flurry of similar proposals by the other branches of the Armed Forces, including a pledge by the Army this past February to build microgrids at every Army base worldwide.
According to naval representatives, the department-wide plan targets installing cyber-secure microgrids with an additional focus on boosting the domestic supply of lithium. It comes after a report released in October 2021 by the Department of Defense warned of the potential effects of climate change on worldwide military operations.
The main concerns are the financial impact of an increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather incidents and the more gradual effects of climate change on military operations.
A recent review found that a Marine Corps training ground at South Carolina’s Parris Island will see more limited use due to its susceptibility to flooding.
“Climate change exposes vulnerabilities to our people, installations, platforms, operations, allies, and partners,” says Meredith Berger, assistant Navy secretary for energy, installations, and environment. “To remain the world’s dominant maritime force, the Department of the Navy must adapt to climate change: We must build resilience and reduce the threat.”
The majority of the department’s focus is on finding ways to eliminate 5 million metric tons of carbon by 2027, a reduction of 1 million tons each year. From there, naval officials expect a sufficient data sample to adjust 2030 and 2050 decisions. Part of this will come from electrifying its fleet of military vehicles. While car electrification alone will not reach the target, eliminating the relatively heavy energy usage will certainly make a dent. The effort will result in the equivalent of removing 1 million cars from the road over that same timespan.
Arguably the most impactful part of the proposed changes is the department’s commitment to building microgrids to support its missions. Officials consider microgrids — believed to be secure in the event of a cyber-attack from a foreign adversary — to be the most practical and reliable options for long-term clean energy storage.
The Navy is not unfamiliar with microgrid technology. Several microgrids currently exist as fully-functioning energy sources for naval bases throughout the country and support various tactical operations. One such base is Naval Submarine Base New London, located in Groton, CT, where Noresco and FuelCell Energy recently wrapped up improvements to grid resiliency. Ameresco, an engineering services company, has been contracted to build microgrid projects at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, VA, as well as one at another shipyard in Kittery, ME. The upcoming microgrid upgrades will follow an earlier resilience plan from 2020 that ensured key naval outposts would be able to function for weeks at a time independent of any power grid access.