California lawmakers have allocated $ 35 million to UC San Diego to design and build a new coastal research vessel with a unique hydrogen hybrid propulsion system.
The new vessel, which will be operated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, will serve as a platform for essential education and research dedicated to understanding the California coast and the impacts of climate change on it. coastal ecosystem.
The California Ocean is the source of food, jobs, health and recreation, and vital to the annual $ 44 billion coastal economy. Problems of particular importance to California’s economic vitality include the health of the marine fisheries, harmful algal blooms, severe El Niño storms, atmospheric rivers, sea level rise, ocean acidification and areas of oxygen depletion. This new vessel will be dedicated to California research missions and will allow scientists to observe and measure biological, chemical, geological and physical processes associated with a variety of environmental problems.
“The Scripps Institution of Oceanography has guided countless students, faculty, and staff at UC San Diego through invaluable science projects aboard the Robert Gordon Sproul, and conducted groundbreaking research on climate change and the impact of plastics in our oceans, ”said Senate President pro Tempore Toni. G. Atkins. “After a four-decade run, it is high time that Scripps built a new research vessel that can keep up with the high caliber work they continue to produce and help our State navigate the murky waters of rising levels. of the sea and our changing climate. ”
The proposed 125-foot vessel will take three years to design, build and commission, and replace the Robert Gordon Sproul research vessel, which has served thousands of University of California students over its nearly 40 years of service, but is approaching the end of its useful life. . UC San Diego is a student-centered, research-driven public university, and offshore experiences are the cornerstone of educational programs for graduate and undergraduate students. This new vessel will continue the university’s educational mission of training the next generation of scientists, leaders and decision-makers.
“With 840 miles of coastline, it is important for California to manage its access to the vast resources of the Pacific Ocean,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “To do this, we need to better understand our coastal environments and how climate change affects them. This is where the Scripps Institution of Oceanography can help. This new, state-of-the-art research vessel will expand our ability to understand and protect our coastline and train UC San Diego undergraduates and graduate students through unprecedented hands-on learning. ”
The hybrid-hydrogen design of this new vessel represents an innovation in the maritime industry. The development of this zero-emission vessel and subsequent ones is key to the University of California’s carbon neutrality initiative, with the goal of being carbon neutral by 2025. Currently, emissions from diesel engines ships contribute to greenhouse gases and pollution. This new vessel will feature an innovative hybrid propulsion system that integrates hydrogen fuel cells alongside a conventional diesel-electric power plant, enabling zero-emission operations. The design is to scale so that the ship will be able to perform 75 percent of its missions entirely using non-fossil fuel – hydrogen – with only pure water and electricity as products. reaction. For longer missions, additional power will be provided by modern and clean diesel generators. The ship represents a major step in advancing California’s commitment to reduce global climate risk while moving to a carbon neutral economy.
“Our vision is to build an uncompromising and fully capable oceanographic research vessel that can be powered independently from fossil fuels, and be free of the major pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions that diesel-powered ships emit,” said Bruce Appelgate, Associate Director and Chief of Vessels Operations at Scripps Oceanography. “In doing so, we hope to serve both our scientists and our students while being a global leader in transformational change towards clean and non-polluting on-board power systems.”
The vessel will be equipped with instruments and detection systems, including acoustic Doppler current profilers, seabed mapping systems, marine fisheries imaging systems, biological and geological sampling systems and support for airborne drone operations. These capabilities, along with state-of-the-art laboratories, will enable largely multidisciplinary research, advancing our understanding of the physical and biological processes active in California’s coastal oceans.
It is expected that the ship will carry up to 45 students and teachers at sea on day trips, improving the university’s capacity for experiential learning at sea. UC, postdoctoral fellows and early career faculty will also be able to apply for research time at sea through the UC Ship Funds program, which provides support for shipments on Scripps ships through a competitive, peer-reviewed proposal process. The feasibility study to conceptualize the hydrogen fuel cell propulsion technology for the ship was initially completed in 2020 by Sandia National Laboratories, Glosten and Scripps. The study was funded by the Marine Administration of the United States Department of Transportation.
In addition to public funds for this ship, the budget includes critical environmental research for UC San Diego, including $ 15 million for the ALERTWildfire program to help meet the goal of 1,000 forest fire camera installations in California by 2022; $ 10 million for the Department of Water Resources Atmospheric Rivers Research Program to expand forecast-based reservoir operations and support advanced observations, predictions and decision support for atmospheric precipitation events in rivers, storms that account for 50 percent of California’s total annual precipitation and 90 percent of its flooding; and $ 1.5 million for the State Parks Oceanographic Program to support sea level rise forecasting, advance cliff erosion monitoring and forecasting, and maintain data real-time wave condition and coastal ocean observations maintained by the Coastal Data Information Program at Scripps.
“The environmental phenomena that we are studying are deeply important and linked to the economic vitality of California,” said Margaret Leinen, vice chancellor of marine sciences at UC San Diego and director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “The research conducted through the Scripps programs and on this ship will provide decision makers with the essential resources and information needed to develop science policies and climate resilience solutions. ”
Scripps Oceanography will also request that the new coastal vessel serve as a shared-use facility within the US university research fleet under the auspices of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS). When completed, it will join the fleet of vessels managed by Scripps, including Navy-owned research vessels Sally Ride and Roger Revelle, which conduct global oceanographic research, and the R / V Bob and Betty Beyster, a work boat. coastal scientist. All research vessels are stationed and maintained at the University’s Nimitz Marine Facility at Point Loma.
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