US Navy considers alternative energy sources by California companies

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The Navy hopes to cut its power use and foreign oil consumption in half by 2020.

At an event at the Capitol in Sacramento, the Navy and about a dozen California businesses and universities showed how much progress they’re making. There were booths with algae oil used to make jet fuel and the latest in products that conserve energy.

Karen Butterfield with SunPower said a solar project nearing completion at China Basin will provide 30 percent of the base’s power.

“It employs SunPower’s high-efficiency panels as well as a single-axis tracking system that follows the sun from east to west during the day to maximize the amount of energy produced," she said.

Several independent groups were on hand to applaud the efforts. Lawson Stuart with the Truman National Security Project says one-in-six soldiers is killed by enemy attacks on U.S. fuel convoys.

“Switching to biofuels, renewables, they have this awesome little backpack solar panel that can recharge all the batteries," Stuart said. "We’re literally saving veterans lives."

The problem most often cited for reluctance to use alternative energy is cost. People taking part in the “green Navy” event say making renewable affordable is still the “holygrail” of alternative energy.

The Truman Project says there has been progress. Biofuel costs have dropped by 80 percent in the last few years.

Several of these projects are being funded by the California Energy Commission. It recently gave a biodiesel company nearly $2 billion to build a 10-million-gallon-per-year production facility at the Ventura County Naval Base.

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