Earth Day 2010 – Reducing our environmental footprint

As the world celebrates the 40th Earth Day, we decided to take a look at a few of the ways the Coast Guard is working to be a greener organization. In March 2007, Admiral Allen released The Commandant’s Environmental Stewardship Commitment. In that document Admiral Allen challenged “all Coast Guard units to improve the environment, and to reduce our environmental footprint.”


So, how are we doing?

By fiscal year 2009, the Coast Guard had reduced shore energy intensity (btus/sq. ft) by 14.1% from a 2003 baseline, reduced water intensity by 15.6%, designed all new buildings since 2006 to be 30% more energy efficient than the applicable American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers standard, and attributed 6.4% of all electricity consumed to renewable energy sources.

How have we done it?

According to Daniel Gore, the Coast Guard Energy Program Manager, “One of the beautiful aspects of working for the Coast Guard is witnessing how many folks wish to do the right thing. Nearly all Coast Guard energy sustainability efforts are based on grass root efforts of field units and personnel who have an idea. The role of the formal “Energy Program” has been to fan that idea, encourage other like-minded stakeholders with appropriate skill-sets to join in the vision, and provide limited financial support where it can. In this way, with bare bone resources, the Coast Guard has been able to establish one of the most successful energy sustainability programs in the federal government. However, there is still a long way to go…”

What major sustainable energy projects have we accomplished over the past year.

ATON SolarU.S. Coast Guard Yard – The Coast Guard Yard is the service’s sole shipbuilding and repair facility. In partnership with the City of Baltimore, the Yard officially lit off a renewable energy power plant on Earth Day 2009, designed to remove the facility from the “grid.” When fully operational, a 4 megawatt power generation plant will run off of methane produced from the city’s landfill is estimated to save the Coast Guard more than $2 million per year in utility costs. Those savings, in turn, are applied to the cost of the project. The Coast Guard receives credit for generating renewable energy and the City of Baltimore prevents methane (a greenhouse gas) from spilling into the atmosphere.

Coast Guard Training Center Petaluma – In October 2009, the Coast Guard Training Centerat Petaluma, California held a ceremony to unveil a four-acre solar panel array. When the array went online April 1, 2010, it began producing nearly one megawatt of power (875 kW) to power the much of the training center’s day-to-day operations. The solar array at Petaluma is expected to reduce the Coast Guard’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2 million pounds per year.

Solar Aids to Navigation – It is a little known fact that 96% of the Coast Guard’s aids to navigation are solar powered. There are 4,777 solar powered floating buoys on America’s waterways and 11,401 fixed navigation aids (ranges, lighthouses, etc.) protecting mariners around the country. Many are being retrofitted with energy efficient LED lights with a range of up to 15 miles. The combination of solar power and LED lights reduces energy consumption and the need to purchase and dispose of thousands of batteries.

Where are we going from here?

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May, New Jersey is examining the feasibility of installing two (2 mega-watt) wind turbines, which would satisfy up to 70% of the base’s electricity load.

Guardians in Alaska are working with the National Forest Service to examine the potential for steam generated from wood-biomass. The Tongass National Forest needs to be thinned. Wood is a renewable fuel which produces less life-cycle green house gases than petroleum. With the right consistency of wood chips and highly efficient boilers, it could be used to provide steam heat to several Coast Guard bases.

Coast Guard Station Rockland – Coast Guard Station Rockland, Maine is in the process of installing an underwater tidal energy generator. Once it goes online later this year, the tidal generator will be the largest in the United States and the first tidal power acceptance by a federal government facility. The generator will be used to offset some of the Station’s electricity load.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,