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03 Mar 11. The U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Energy are partnering on initiatives to further develop and test energy-storage technologies first developed by ARPA-e. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced two such development and deployment partnerships on March 2 for power electronics modules and batteries capable of storing megawatts of power—both to be funded by a requested $25 million each from DOD and ARPA–e in the fiscal year 2012 budget.
“Twenty-five million dollars is the cost of one H-1 helicopter,” Mabus said. “The change that $25m from DOD and ARPA–e can generate, can multiply that one helicopter hundreds and thousands of times.”
Mabus was referring both to lives saved—for every 24 fuel convoys in Afghanistan and Iraq, one soldier or Marine is killed or wounded, according to a U.S. Army study—and money saved. The DOD fuel bill came to some $14bn in 2010. “For every dollar the price of a barrel of oil goes up, the Navy spends $31m more for fuel,” Mabus noted. “Our dependence on fossil fuels creates strategic, operational and tactical vulnerabilities for our forces.”
The Navy has taken a lead in attempting to change that, setting a goal of deriving half its energy needs from non-fossil fuel sources by 2020 as well as making half of its bases energy self-sufficient. Already, the Navy has ordered some 40,000 gallons of jet fuel derived from camelina—an oil-seed plant like canola—and more than 20,000 gallons of diesel-like fuel for ships from algae, an order the U.S. Air Force has matched by requisitioning 40,000 gallons of bio-jet fuel. “The Navy has taken delivery of its first algae-based jet fuel. We’re not talking about some environmental weirdos, we’re talking about the Navy,” former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger noted in an address to the ARPA–e conference on March 1. “Why should a dried up little country with a crazy dictator like Libya play havoc with America’s energy future?”
And the Navy’s first hybrid electric-drive ship—that uses electric motors for speeds under 12 knots—saved some $2m in fuel costs on its maiden voyage from Pascagoula, Miss. to San Diego. “Changing the way we produce and use energy is fundamentally about improving the national security of this country,” Mabus said, noting the Navy’s history of fuel switches—from wind to coal in the 19th century and coal to oil supplemented by nuclear over the course of the 20th century. “I am confident, as we lead again in changing the way we power our ships and aircraft, that the naysayers who say, ‘it’s too expensive, the technology is not there,’ are going to be proven wrong again.”
That is exactly what ARPA–e—and more broadly the goals set by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu—could prove. “You cannot decouple energy and national security,” says ARPA–e Director Arun Majumdar. Via the ADEPT—or Agile Delivery of Electrical Power Technology—and GRIDS—Grid-scale Rampable Intermittent Dispatchable Storage—programs, ARPA–e aims to prove the energy storage technologies that the Navy and other armed forces need. “We want to develop storage and do that with batteries, flywheels at the cost of $100 per kilowatt-hour [and] use it anywhere in the world.” (Source: Scientific American)