Juice: Marine Core

By Published On: June 29, 2012

When I served in the Marine Corps, there was an often-heard saying that was practically our mantra: “improvise, adapt, and overcome.” The slogan was a verbal manifestation of the mental outlook drilled into Marines’ heads during and after boot camp, No matter what challenges lay in front of you, there’s a way to conquer them as long as you roll with the punches and learn to deal with unexpected events quickly and efficiently. The Marine Corps’ unofficial motto and outlook regarding flexibility could and should be heeded regarding the unexpected events surrounding San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. That facility sits less than 10 miles north of the Marine Corps Base Camp. It’s also a perfect opportunity for the Marines to come to the renewables rescue. The land the nuclear facility sits on is public property that’s owned by the Department of the Navy. Camp Pendleton has leased the land to the plant’s operators since 1964. The base has already ramped up its renewable efforts in recent years, going from a 238 kW photovoltaic portfolio in 2008. The base’s total renewable capability is currently 5 MW, according to spokesperson Capt. Barry Edwards. The main reason for the increase is to meet energy mandates set by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in October 2009. He declared that 50 percent of the Navy’s total energy--ashore and afloat--should come from alternative sources by 2020. The branch-wide edict also includes the Marine Corps, which is a department of the Navy. Among the projects Camp Pendleton has undertaken in recent years as part of its path toward 50 percent alternative energy is a 1.4 MW photovoltaic facility installed March 2011. The base also has PV systems at each of its new enlisted personnel living quarters, which supply 215 kW of power. As of April 2012, it’s in the process of installing a 346 kW solar power system on two of the base’s chow halls--aka dining facilities. Since the Marine Corps as a whole and Pendleton in particular has engaged in an aggressive push to implement renewable energy harvesting on military lands, it seems to make perfect sense that if San Onofre doesn’t resume operations due to safety issues, or if the plant fails to be relicensed, that the Marines could resume control of all or part of the 84 acres that SONGS sits on. And if that happens, using the coastal land as the site for a solar array is a no-brainer. But Capt. Edwards did not indicate if the military has a plan in place if the San Onofre facility is prematurely decommissioned. When asked if the problems with SONGS have added a sense of urgency when it comes to the base developing its own renewable power, he was non-specific. “Camp Pendleton will continue to seek opportunities where renewable energy can be used to reduce energy demand,” Edwards responded. “We will also look to increasing our energy efficiency.” There are no immediate plans by the base or military, however, to develop a large-scale solar or offshore wind project to fill the potential void San Onofre could leave behind. But with the plant’s license not coming up for renewal until 2022, there’s still plenty of time to launch a plan for a replacement facility to fill the resulting void in the event the license isn’t renewed. Simply put, if there was ever a time for the Marine Corps to improvise, adapt to and overcome a situation, this is it.

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