FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 27, 2014
By Eric Beidel
Two years after helping to establish a “green city” in Thailand, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is expanding its quest for renewable energy and bringing the latest technologies to other parts of the Asia-Pacific region, officials announced Oct. 27.
The announcement comes during National Energy Action Month, as the Navy promotes energy efficiency and conservation by participating in and hosting events around the world.
“Each new partnership we establish moves the United States and our allies closer to energy independence,” said Dr. Richard Carlin, head of ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department.
The Chiang Mai World Green City was established two years ago at Chiang Mai Rajabhat University with support from ONR. It uses solar cells, batteries for energy storage and a direct-current (DC) microgrid to power more than 20 buildings over 200 acres, including residences, offices, businesses and a vegetable farm.
“This system is unique in that it uses direct current to power an entire community,” Carlin said. “While this concept is perfect for isolated and remote communities, it also could be used in the future on naval installations and even ships at sea to bring power to our Sailors and Marines wherever they are.”
The concept has proven so successful that scientists in Thailand soon will establish another smart grid-powered village at the University of Phayao and introduce sustainable technologies to military barracks and other communities throughout the country.
The system at Chiang Mai can deliver DC electricity from an array of solar cells to locations on campus without having to convert to alternating current (AC) because it does not need to tie into a main power grid. The electricity is being produced locally to power modern devices such as computers and lighting, which already come equipped with DC inputs. This saves money and requires no extra equipment to convert DC to AC, a process that can result in a reduction of power.
Smaller, portable DC power plants can be set up quickly and don’t require fossil fuels, making them ideal for use by naval forces looking to reduce their reliance on petroleum as directed by the Secretary of the Navy.
ONR now has turned its attention to Vietnam, where there is an abundance of solar, biomass, wind, geothermal, hydro and other rich renewable energy sources.
“We are expanding our research collaboration to Vietnam to build off the success in Thailand and to support the United States in our pivot to the Asia-Pacific region,” said Dr. Cung Vu, ONR Global associate director for power and energy. “Vietnam’s remote rural, mountainous and island areas will benefit from ONR’s microgrid research, and the Navy will be able to increase its understanding of energy-efficient technologies through another key partnership.”
The U.S.-Vietnam collaboration also will take advantage of investments made in Hawaii, where ONR is sponsoring a study of electrical grids for three naval bases. As part of that initiative, the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) and the Applied Research Laboratory at the University of Hawaii are working with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command to develop an action plan for the Navy’s energy needs in Hawaii.
The HNEI and the Institute of Energy Science of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology recently signed a memorandum of understanding to train technical personnel and exchange scientific data regarding renewable energy.
For more information about National Energy Action Month and the U.S. Navy’s energy initiatives, visit: http://greenfleet.dodlive.mil/energy/energy-action-month/.
Eric Beidel is a contractor for ONR Corporate Strategic Communications.
About the Office of Naval Research
The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs more than 1,000 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.