Saving energy and reducing our amount of waste is a habit that we as future junior officers need to develop. Students at the U.S. Naval Academy represent the future of the U.S. Navy, and we have the potential to introduce a culture of conservation and awareness within the organization. Through my participation in the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge SWAP, I realized that there is so much more that can be done to be conscious of the amount of energy I am using, or wasting, in my day-to-day life at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Traveling to the U.S. Air Force Academy and touring their facilities was an impactful experience. First and foremost, I realized that both institutions are facing the same issues: from feeding 4,400 students at once, to housing students with military room standards, to heating and cooling massive academic buildings. As we toured each different area, our teams exchanged notes and talked through opportunities for changes we can make to increase energy efficiency. Our most productive observations included how the Air Force Academy kitchens could cut down on energy usage and waste, and the Air Force team pointed out how we could benefit from updating our HVAC system.
Personally, watching how the Air Force Academy has implemented solar panels into the cadets’ research and daily life presented a great opportunity for the Naval Academy. The Air Force Academy is harnessing the power of the sun to not only power the student’s labs, but also to power cadets’ daily appliances, from coffeemakers to computers. This challenge made our team realize that there could be effective ways to implement solar panels and other forms of renewable energy on our campus. These technologies can be used and studied by the students as a way to develop interest in alternative energies, as well as an opportunity for midshipmen to become more aware of our excessive energy consumption.
However, this challenge means so much more than just an energy efficient campus. A more energy conscious Naval Academy, and therefore a more energy conscious Fleet, is essential to the sustainability of our Naval assets. The Navy relies on a constant supply of energy when our sailors are forward deployed and operational. However, logistical demands for energy replenishment put Marine Corps and Naval assets at risk. One of the most vulnerable times for a ship is during underway replenishment, for an aircraft is during mid-air refueling, and for a marine corps unit is when convoying oil to forward operating bases. The more energy conscious our Fleet becomes and the more ways we can produce our own energy resources, the smaller the logistical demand will be. This challenge helps reinforce the importance of an energy-secure Navy.
The service academies are all about leadership. Because of this opportunity, I have realized that I can tackle these behavior changes as a future leader. It can be as simple as shutting off lights and taking smaller portions, but ingraining this mentality in the military as a whole starts with midshipmen and cadets at the service academies. From the Brigade-level, down to the lowest level of leadership, as a student body we can start these conversations and introduce a culture of conservation into the Fleet.