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US Navy Program 'Excelerates' Alternative Energy

As the US Department of the Navy (DON) continues to emphasize the need for energy security, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) announced earlier this month that it will increase its support for Energy Excelerator, a Hawaii-based program that funds development of new and innovative energy ideas.

The program, part of ONR's Asia-Pacific Technology and Education Program (APTEP), is an effort to discover groundbreaking energy technologies, and supports startup companies in bringing those technologies to the market.

The $30 million investment from ONR will not only help such promising companies grow, but also draw in other partners to help energy innovation flourish. The current 17 Energy Excelerator portfolio companies have raised more than $38 million in follow-on funding over the past three years.

"In the modern era, technological breakthroughs offer unprecedented opportunities to move toward diversified energy sources," said Dr. Richard Carlin, director of ONR's Sea Warfare and Weapons Department. "It's vital for our Sailors and Marines, and the nation, to discover and develop new sustainable sources of energy-as well as dramatically improve the way we manage energy."

Hawaii is uniquely positioned for such research, experts say, with unparalleled wind, solar, bioenergy, wave and geothermal resources. Its population is also keenly aware of the need for alternatives to fossil fuels because the state is dependent on imported oil for its power and energy use, and residents face the highest electricity costs in the nation. 

APTEP and the Energy Excelerator program offer unique support for the nation's strategic pivot toward the Asia-Pacific region, as well as the Department of the Navy's Energy Goals, established by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, to decrease Navy and Marine Corps dependence on fossil fuels.

The DoN's Energy Goals policy statement reads in part: "The United States Navy and Marine Corps rely far too much on petroleum, a dependency that degrades the strategic position of our country and the tactical performance of our forces. The global supply of oil is finite, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find and exploit, and over time cost continues to rise."

ONR's APTEP efforts are intended to help achieve the secretary's goals not only through science and technology breakthroughs, but also by encouraging technology commercialization and industry partnerships, as well as early education in science, technology, engineering and math. 

"Partnerships are vital if we're going to reach our energy goals," said Carlin. "With this program that helps small companies bring their products out of the lab and into the market, we're supporting a forward-thinking organization that can make a significant contribution to future energy needs."

The Energy Excelerator program provides seed money to companies looking to provide technological capability that can better integrate power from renewable energy sources like solar and wind; energy storage breakthroughs like smaller and more efficient batteries; transportation advances; and more. The program is accepting applications online here until Sept. 27, 2013.

"The Energy Excelerator helps startups succeed, starting in Hawaii — one of the best early markets for energy innovation," said Dawn Lippert, the project's senior manager. "We are excited to see ONR supporting companies that have the potential to make a really big impact in solving global energy problems."

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 approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C. 

Lead image: Navy vessel via Shutterstock

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