Biomass: Powering the U.S. Navy, a Step Into the Future

The U.S. Navy's Great Green Fleet initiative utilized energy efficient systems, procedures and alternative fuels on missions worldwide.

June 6, 2017 by Glenn Farris

Biomass: Powering the U.S. Navy, a Step Into the Future

The U.S. Navy's Great Green Fleet initiative utilized energy efficient systems, procedures and alternative fuels on missions worldwide.

As you already know, biomass can be used to produce such things as ethanol, electricity, high-value chemicals, animal bedding, recyclable products and pellets.

But, did you ever wonder whether biomass could power something very large like a Navy ship or something fast like a Navy jet?

Our core question for this post is just that: Can biomass be used to efficiently and effectively power Navy ships and planes?

On first thought, it might sound a bit adventurous. But the fact is that the U.S. Navy is actually seeking ways to transform its energy use to enable its fleets to go farther, stay longer on missions and deliver more firepower.

Its Great Green Fleet initiative ran throughout 2016 and included ships, aircraft, amphibious and expeditionary forces, as well as shore installations. Energy efficient systems, procedures and alternative fuels were used on missions worldwide. 

So, how do we do it with biomass?

An organic material, biomass is the oldest fuel known to man. Finding a way to adapt it as a power source for the Navy is a challenge we welcome. The potential for biomass is huge.

Earlier, I touched on traditional uses of biomass – energy, fuel, chemicals, etc.

The importance of biomass cannot be understated.

And the statistics say?

According to U.N. estimates, the world’s population will reach 8 billion in 2024. To provide the recommended amount of food for a population of that size, the world’s farmers must increase productivity and efficiency while preserving the environment that allows crops to grow. Ever increasing yields will mean increasing waste such as corn stover. ¹

To continue to meet this growing need for food will require management of this waste; requiring biomass solutions based on the use of cutting edge farming equipment and technology.

What’s more, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory said that if more biomass was captured and converted, the residue could provide 14 percent of the U.S. electricity use or 13 percent of the nation’s motor fuel. ²

The Great Green Fleet

A November 2016 story, U.S. Navy using biofuels to power fighter jet fleet, broadcast by CBS News highlighted the Navy’s use of various forms of biofuels to power planes and ships since 2009. Making it more interesting, the Navy has committed to 50 percent usage of alternative fuels by 2020. The Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus told CBS News that engines do not notice any difference between biofuels and regular fuels. In fact, they might actually burn cleaner when using biofuels, he explained. 

According to one Navy commander, the Great Green Fleet is implementing alternative fuels, ECMs (energy conservation measures) and operational procedures with one goal in mind – instilling a culture of energy efficiency and flexibility throughout the fleet for the future.³ 

It is about more than just saving gas. The Great Green Fleet is a mindset change across the board.

With the biofuel issue gaining media attention through its use by a key branch of the U.S. military, the time is ripe for us to insert ourselves into the discussions.


AGCO is in a perfect position to help the Navy for several reasons. First, for over seven years AGCO Biomass Solutions has been working with researchers, as well as supporting industry leaders perfecting the biomass feedstock supply chain logistics. Second, we pride ourselves on providing insight and innovations that increase productivity and efficiency for our partners.

Our firm belief in the enormous potential of the bioenergy market drives us to perfect the biomass feedstock supply chain, and putting our efforts to work in support of those who protect our freedom, definitely seems like a worthwhile cause.

Written by: Glenn Farris



¹ Why Does Biomass Matter to Me?

² Biomass at a Glance

³ The Great Green Fleet Explained

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