The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center’s Public Works Division (PWD), Twenytynine Palms, Calif., and sailors from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 40 at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, Calif., have teamed up to find a source of renewable geothermal energy in the Combat Center’s West training area.

The hunt began when NMCB 40’s drilling team of 20 sailors began their operations at the first well site in early December.

“Basically what we’re doing is drilling five geological wells,” says chief petty officer Jeremy Trujillo, the NMCB 40 drilling team officer in charge. “We’re taking each well down to about 1,000 feet, testing the temperature of the fluid when it goes into the hole and when it exits the hole.

“We generally drill for geothermal energy near fault lines,” adds Trujillo. “Our ultimate goal is to try to obtain geothermal energy caused by friction from fault lines.”

Since operations can’t be halted once drilling begins, the Seabees of NMCB 40 worked around the clock since they began drilling at the first well site. The 20 sailors have been working in 10-hour shifts in crews of five for several weeks.

Gary Morrissett, the PWD energy manager, said the base has been trying to reduce the amount of energy it uses through construction and renovation projects. Drilling for geothermal energy will help create a continuous source of energy, and will save money and the environment.

“We’re looking at using a low temperature heat exchange, which will basically recycle hot water, then transfer it into a secondary liquid,” he says. “The steam created by the transfer will power a turbine for energy, and the water will be put back in the ground and reused.

“We’re still in the exploratory phase of this project,” adds Morrisset. “If we do find enough heat down there, we need to decide if we want to build a geothermal plant here.”

The geothermal energy drilling is all a part of the Combat Center’s plan to reduce energy usage and increase renewable energy sources aboard the base. The energy manager for Headquarters Marine Corps at Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Va., Scott Houldsworth, notes that the transition to renewable energy sources is an important part of the Marine Corps’ mission. “We must ensure a secure and reliable energy and water supply to support the operating forces and their families through the energy and water efficient management of facilities’ infrastructure,” he says. “We also need to reduce the life cycle operating costs of the Marine Corps facilities and manage future commodity price volatility.”

The next projected energy efficiency goal, which is set by the Department of Energy, is for military installations to be using seven-and-a-half percent renewable energy by the year 2012.