The Navy is going green.
For military planners, a smaller carbon footprint makes sense fiscally and from a safety as well as a strategic standpoint.
So said one of the Navy's top-ranking civilian leaders Wednesday from Truman Annex property overlooking the emerald waters where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Roger Natsuhara, acting assistant secretary of the Navy (Energy, Installations Environment) oversees all Navy functions and programs related to all Navy installations, safety, energy, and environmental issues, from Washington, D.C.
Natsuhara wanted an up-close view of Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West to see how the base operates within the federally protected Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and what energy-saving measures have been implemented in recent years. "It's good to see firsthand the issues that we are dealing with in Washington," Natsuhara said.
About two years ago, a study concluded that too many appliances were unused or used inefficiently as part of a sample audit of energy consumption at NAS Key West properties as well as in other installations.
As part of a larger, overall push by the Navy at all its installations, local Navy leaders began implementing plans calling for 50 percent of all energy to come from alternative sources by 2020, Natsuhara said. The engineer, also former director of Property, Facilities and Logistics for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was realistic in the challenges such a goal poses for NAS Key West.
"It will have to make sense economically, and it is expensive down here in terms of construction costs and getting those things here," Natsuhara said. He remained optimistic, however, that such goals are not out of reach for NAS Key West, noting that "all military installations have their own challenges and environmental concerns that must be weighed."
Natsuhara mentioned the advanced energy meters being installed on base that should be up and running by next year. The meters will allow the Navy to better study which buildings are using the most power and which are more efficient.
"This is a key, important first step," Natsuhara said. "We need to know where our power is being used."
He also mentioned buoy programs being researched in Hawaii that could lead to the Navy using the ocean's tides to harness energy. Talks of hydroelectric turbines in Monroe County, however, and even a biodiesel plant on the base, remain on the horizon.
Meanwhile, the Navy is at work on a $50 million wetlands restoration and runway safety project that NAS Key West Environmental Director Ed Barham says will restore many salt marsh vegetation habitats that historically dotted the areas around Boca Chica Field.
It's all part of the larger vision that Natsuhara said will result in a safer and more efficient Navy in light of ongoing fossil fuel woes and rising environmental concerns.
"There is congressional interest," he said of the plans. "It is a priority for the Navy."