It has been announced that the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command has given Lockheed Martin a $4.4 million contract to press forward with the design for an ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) pilot plant off the coast of Hawaii.
Ocean thermal energy conversion is a process by which the temperature difference between shallow and deeper waters is used to power a heat engine.
Chris Myers, Lockheed Martin vice president for energy and government programs, has been quoted as saying, "OTEC is an ideal energy generation technology for shoreline communities and military bases in tropical areas, some of which are largely dependent on imported fossil fuels for power and transportation. We are applying our decades of experience designing and deploying maritime systems for defense markets to ocean power, helping to produce clean energy."
The Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority was established at Keahole Point on the Kona coast of Hawaii in 1974, when the United States decided to conduct research into ocean thermal energy conversion technology.
Since then, the laboratory has led the world in OTEC research and technology.
Lockheed Martin will design and create vital system components for a pilot plant, which will leverage the temperature difference between warmer water at the ocean's surface and colder water.
The contract is an addition to a Naval Facilities Engineering Command contract for $8.1 million issued Lockheed Martin in 2009.
Significantly, OTEC is not an intermittent energy source and so can be used as a stable base-load power generator, operating around the clock and not affected by weather conditions.
Last month algae biofuel company Solazyme released an announcement that the Navy purchased 20,000 gallons of its algae-based fuel. The Department of Defense will buy 150,000 gallons of the biofuel by 2011, according to a contract.
Solazyme has funding from multiple investors. Morgan Stanley and the Chevron's venture-capital investors have made investments in the company, as well.
Algae have an exceptional capability to convert sugar to fats and oils. Solazyme decided the most efficient way to capitalize on this ability would be to use sugarcane or switchgrass to provide sugar to industrial fermentation vats supplied with algae that would then convert the sugar into oil.
Solazyme is working on generating algae strains that are best for producing diesel fuel, as well as other products. According to reports, Solazyme has garnered $75 million in venture capital and now a $21.8 million Department of Energy grant.
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Former U.S. admirals and generals have submitted signed documents that warn the U.S. military's dependence on foreign oil and an undependable electrical grid compromise U. S. security.The document claims that a portion of the fuel imported by the U.S. military was basically a conveyor of wealth to countries linked with terrorism. The report recommends the development of alternative fuel sources.
The military is taking the situation seriously and attacking the problem in multiple ways.
One way is represented by a buoy anchored in 100 feet of water, bouncing around in the heaving, churning waves and swells about a mile off Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Base in Hawaii. It is no ordinary buoy. It has a piston-like apparatus within it that converts the energy of the movement of the ocean into energy that is sent via an underwater cable to the power grid on the base.
Ocean Power Technologies, or OPT, has won the support of both the Navy and the Marine Corps, and currently three of its buoys are jostling around in the ocean, sending roughly 3 to 4 kilowatts of energyback to land, and sending information from multiple sensors to the OPT headquarters in New Jersey.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has been quoted as saying, "This project demonstrates the Navy and Marine Corps' commitment to lead the country toward a new energy future. Of the five energy targets I issued in 2009, the most important is that by 2020, half of all the energy we use - ashore and afloat, in the air, on the sea, under the sea and on land - will come from alternative sources. In order to end our reliance on fossil fuels, we must continue to invest in projects such as ocean energy. In doing so, we will improve our energy security, increase our energy independence, and help build a new clean energy economy. "
The Navy has funded the project with at $300,000 and a contract for $3 million so far.