The United States Coast Guard operates over 200 aircraft along with hundreds of boats and ships from 600 plus sites in the United States. The smallest of the military services protecting America, it still has a significant footprint when it comes to the use of fossil fuels and electricity.
The agencies of the Federal Government were directed by President Bush in Executive Order 13423 to make changes in policy, purchasing and practice that would improve energy use efficiency, encourage development and use of alternative energy sources and to reduce overall energy use by 2015. The Coast Guard, because of the geographic dispersal of its sites and the nature of the services it performs, has long been at the forefront of such initiatives but the E.O. has pushed them to further “green” changes.
Aids to navigation, buoys, have been solar powered for many years. The Coast Guard has been addressing the needs of its on-shore lighthouses by making them solar powered where possible. The Lahaina, Maui lighthouse went on-line with solar power at the beginning of January, 2009. This was the third lighthouse in Hawaii to be converted to solar.
The Southwest Harbor, Maine Sector Field Office uses a wind turbine to generate power for its computers. Also in Maine, the Coast Guard Station Eastport has begun a program to generate electricity from tidal energy. The Portland office has installed solar power and a wind turbine.
The USCG Training Center Cape May, N.J. is in the process of obtaining approval to build two wind turbines. This project could generate up to 4 megawatts of power.
The Coast Guard Yard, in Baltimore, is the sole shipbuilding and major repair facility for the United States Coast Guard. It is a major site and a major electric user. On April 22, 2009, the Coast Guard opened a landfill gas project that will take the Yard completely off the electric grid. Working with the City of Baltimore, the Coast Guard contracted for the building of a methane operated co-generation plant to produce both steam and electricity. The methane is obtained from wells in a nearby landfill and piped about a mile to the generator facility. The cost of the project was $41 million and it is expected to be entirely recouped in savings on purchased electricity.
The landfill gas project has the potential, on its own, to meet the entire energy savings requirement for the Department of Homeland Security through 2012. The Coast Guard will not stop looking for energy savings and alternative energy sources, however. It continues to work closely with the other military services, especially the Navy.