California has given Scripps Institute of Oceanography $35 million to design and build a new coastal research vessel with a hydrogenhybrid propulsion system to replace the aging R/V Robert Gordon Sproul.
The new vessel, which will be operated by Scripps at UC San Diego, will serve as a platform for research dedicated to understanding the California coast and how climate change impacts the local ecosystem.
The Pacific Ocean is the source of food, jobs, health, and recreation, and is vital to the state’s $44 billion annual coastal economy. Especially relevant are issues such as the health of marine fisheries, harmful algal blooms, severe El Niño storms, atmospheric rivers, sealevel rise, ocean acidification, and changes to the Jet Stream. This new vessel will be dedicated to California research missions and will enable scientists to observe and measure biological, chemical, geological, and physical processes associated with a variety of environmental issues.
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“Scripps has guided countless scientific projects aboard the R/V Robert Gordon Sproul” said California Senator Tempore Toni G. Atkins. “After a fourdecade run, it is high time Scripps built a new research vessel that can keep up with the highcaliber work they continue to churn out, and help our state navigate the troubled waters of sealevel rise and our evolving climate.”
The proposed 125foot vessel will take three years to design, build, and commission, and replace the Research Vessel Robert Gordon Sproul, which has served 40 years of service. This new vessel will continue the university’s educational mission to train the next generation of scientists.
“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.
The new vessel will feature an innovative hybrid propulsion system that integrates hydrogen fuel cells alongside a conventional dieselelectric power plant, enabling zeroemission operations. The design is scaled so the ship will operate 75 percent of its missions entirely using a nonfossil fuel—hydrogen—with only pure water and electricity as reaction products. For longer missions, extra power will be provided by cleanrunning diesel generators. The vessel represents a major step in advancing California’s pledge to reduce global climate risk while transitioning to a carbonneutral economy.
“Our vision is to build an oceanographic research vessel that can be powered independently from fossil fuels, and be free from the criteria pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Bruce Appelgate, associate director and head of ship operations at Scripps Oceanography.
The vessel will be equipped with instruments and sensing systems, including acoustic Doppler current profilers, seafloor mapping systems, midwater fishery imaging systems, biological and geological sampling systems, and support for airborne drone operations. These capabilities, along with stateoftheart laboratories, will enable broad multidisciplinary research.
Scripps Oceanography will also petition that the new coastal vessel serve as a shareduse facility within the U.S. Academic Research Fleet under the auspices of the UniversityNational Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS). When completed, it will join the fleet of vessels managed by Scripps including the Navyowned research vessels Sally Ride and Roger Revelle, which conduct global oceanographic research, and the R/V Bob and Betty Beyster, a nearshore scientific workboat. All research vessels are stationed and maintained at the university’s Nimitz Marine Facility in San Diego.
The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of News2Sea.
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