Makin Island's Hybrid Technology Helps Sailors and Marines Celebrate Earth Day, Every Day
USS MAKIN ISLAND, At sea - Sailors and Marines serving aboard amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) have a unique opportunity to celebrate Earth Day every day, not just April 22 like the rest of the world.
Crew members have taken the ship thousands of miles away from its homeport of San Diego and have showed off the ship's fuel-saving technology to coalition and regional partner nations in keeping with the 2012 Earth Day theme of "Mobilize the Earth."
The ship's hybrid-electric propulsion system is designed to run on auxiliary propulsion motors at low speeds and on gas turbines at higher speeds. This technology allows the Department of the Navy to reduce the use of fossil fuels that leads to reduced carbon emissions and cleaner air, one of the key themes of Earth Day.
"When enabled, the hybrid-electric drive draws power from the electric power grid provided by running SSDG's [ship's service diesel generators]," said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Ponce, Makin Island's main propulsion assistant. "There is zero emission from the electric drive and the running SSDG's have minimal emission when loaded. This concept eliminates all emissions from gas turbine propulsion under 12 knots."
In addition to cleaner emissions, Ponce said the ship uses significantly less fuel than other LHD-class amphibious assault ships. The ship's engineering department keeps detailed logs and those calculations put the fuel burn rate at nearly 50 percent less than a traditional LHD, a significant cost-savings for the Navy.
Ponce said Makin Island also developed a "Sprint and Drift" propulsion technique where the ship would accelerate speed to get ahead of its plan of intended movement (PIM) using one of the two gas turbines. The ship then transitions to auxiliary propulsion motor operations at slower speeds until the ship falls a few hours behind PIM. The cycle is then repeated.
According to Ponce, Makin Island was able to save more than 800,000 gallons of fuel at an estimated cost of $1.9 million in FY 2011 by using this technique.
Ponce said Makin Island also takes an environmentally friendly approach to making potable water.
"In a huge cost-saving measure that has become standard practice, Makin Island tops off potable water tanks at 60 percent, vice 100 percent, prior to every underway," said Ponce. "This initiative utilizes the on-board reverse osmosis unit's maximum water generation capabilities, while saving several thousand dollars in consumable expenditures and precious water from shore."
Beyond the environmental and energy-saving advantages of Makin Island's propulsion system and all-electric design, the ship uses a stern flap to improve fuel economy, anti-fouling coating to minimize hull drag, and solid-state lighting to reduce energy costs.
Ponce said that the ship's "Green Team," a group of Sailors across 30 divisions who lead the ship's recycling efforts, also plays an important role in letting the crew know different ways to help conserve energy on board the ship.
Members of the team have continued those efforts not just on Earth Day, but throughout the ship's maiden deployment.
"Makin Island Sailors and Marines continue to support Earth Day and its global initiative for a sustainable future through our energy conservation, recycling, and plastic waste control programs," said Ensign Kyle J. Holtz, Makin Island's assistant safety officer and Green Team leader. "As the U.S. Navy's first hybrid ship, Makin Island and its Green Team have a unique opportunity to help 'Mobilize the Earth' in 2012."
Holtz said that upon the ship's return from the current deployment, the Green Team will continue to lead recycling efforts and energy conservation programs in San Diego.
"Makin Island is an operational, combat-ready ship with a crew that is dedicated to environmental preservation and a sustainable future," added Holtz. "It's important for our Sailors and Marines to remember that regardless of location or duties assigned, we have an obligation to our earth and its natural resources."
Makin Island's green efforts were recognized last year, prior to the ship's maiden deployment, by Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Environment Donald Schregardus who visited the ship Oct. 18, 2011.
Schregardus praised the technology used aboard Makin Island as an outstanding example of the Navy's progress toward incorporating a clean, efficient and environmentally sustainable design into the fleet.
Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 as a way to focus attention on the need for cleaner air and water as well as promoting renewable energy sources and recycling. More than 190 countries celebrate Earth Day and more than one billion people take part in Earth Day activities each year.
Makin Island is the first U.S. Navy ship to deploy using a hybrid-electric propulsion system. By using this unique propulsion system, the Navy expects over the course of the ship's lifecycle, to see fuel savings of more than $250 million, proving the Navy's commitment to energy awareness and conservation.
This initiative is one of many throughout the Navy and Marine Corps that will enable the Department of the Navy to achieve the secretary of the Navy's energy goals to improve our energy security and efficiency afloat and ashore, increase our energy independence and help lead the nation toward a clean energy economy.
Makin Island is the flagship of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.