About seven years ago, the U.S. Navy left port on a new mission: to increase the use of renewable power and cut energy consumption in half by 2020.

U.S. Navy ships

So the Navy is switching to clean fuel and making ships more efficient, but Elke Weber at Columbia University says top-down approaches will only go so far.

Meeting the goal will also require behavioral changes on land and at sea. And since some of the changes will go well beyond efforts to turn off lights and computers, Weber says risks and benefits need to be clearly explained.

Navy’s land and sea behavioral changes said key to halving energy use. Click To Tweet

For example, at first sailors might be hesitant to try a solar blanket that can be used to recharge batteries because it won’t work without sunlight. But it has two advantages over a fuel-powered generator:

Weber: “The generators actually hum. It’s not good to be in the field in enemy territory with something that hums because it makes you a sitting duck. The other thing is when you get hit by enemy fire and you have a fuel generator, it explodes. It kills you. It kills people around you.”

Solar blanket
Solar blanket (credit: Naval Research Laboratory.)

A solar blanket, however, won’t explode and can continue to generate power if just a piece of it gets hit. So to convince sailors to adopt new technologies and practices, Weber says it’s important to explain how they can save both energy and lives.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo sources: U.S. Navy ships (top photo) via Wikimedia Commons.

More Resources
U.S. Navy Energy, Environment and Climate Change
Department of Defense Armed With Science
Office of Naval Research Power Management Kit

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