Scripps Now Powering Point Loma Ship Facility with the Sun

Matthew S. Leslie

At the conclusion of a recent 30-day research cruise, I excitedly hurried down the gangplank to meet my wife. She gave me a big hug and said, "you smell like diesel!”

Unfortunately, burning fuel is a necessary part of moving modern oceanographic research vessels. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, however, has made efforts to increase fuel efficiency and reduce pollution from its ocean-going fleet, including coating the hulls of its ships with novel paint that gives the ships better fuel mileage and contains fewer pollutants.

“We are always looking for ways to green our fleet,” said Bruce Appelgate, associate director for Ship Operations and Marine Technical Support at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.

The latest example is an addition to its shore-based operations on Point Loma.

“UCSD called us up and said ‘we want to put solar panels at your site,’ we said ‘OK!’” said Appelgate.

What followed was the installation of a 95-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system at the Nimitz Marine Facility, home to one of the world’s largest oceanographic research fleets. The project consists of 7,100 square feet of PV paneling atop the dockside maintenance building. "The goal is to provide all the power needed for the building,” said Appelgate, who oversees the Nimitz Facility.

Appelgate added that the solar array doesn’t provide enough energy to power the ships when they are docked, so ships will continue to plug into the grid.

“But we have always had a policy to turn the diesel engines off while in port, the cleaner alternative, even before it was required by law,” he said.

The PV installation was completed this spring as part of UC San Diego's “Clean Renewable Energy Project.” This effort consists of five separate PV installations at various UCSD campuses. In total, UCSD currently gathers more than five megawatts of energy from the sun and other renewable fuel sources. In addition, the campus is working on installing more renewable energy systems on campus, increasing total renewable energy generation to almost six megawatts by 2013. According to David Weil, director of Building Commissioning and Sustainability at UCSD, “this is about 10 percent of our energy needs.”

It sounds like a small portion, but Weil said "that makes us the largest producer of renewable energy in the entire UC system.”

Scripps and UCSD have also added a station for charging electric cars at Nimitz and are planning to add two at Birch Aquarium at Scripps and two others on the Scripps campus within the year. The newest addition to Scripps’s fleet, the research vessel currently known as AGOR-28, will have the newest fuel-efficient clean diesel technology when it is delivered to Scripps in 2015.

Does clean diesel smell any better? I don't know, but I applaud Scripps and UCSD for finding creative solutions to "green" our fleet and facilities.

– Matthew S. Leslie is a fourth-year Ph.D. student conducting research in the Marine Mammal Genetics Group at the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

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