Approximately 16 million acres of US public lands have been set aside for use by the military, and now the US Department of Defense wants to use some of it for renewable energy projects.
Citing the need to strengthen the nation's energy security and reduce the military's $4 billion annual utility costs, the Defense Department is teaming up with the Department of the Interior (DOI) to assess lands that are appropriate for solar, wind, geothermal and biomass development projects.
Each of the military agencies has committed to deploying up to 1 gigawatt (GW) or renewable energy on or near its installations by 2025.
“Renewable energy projects built on these lands will provide reliable, local sources of power for military installations; allow for a continued energy supply if the commercial power grid gets disrupted; and will help lower utility costs,” says Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
The Defense Department is committed to sourcing 25% of its energy from renewables by 2025, and it has been investing $10 billion a year in new technologies to help it get there. As of 2011, 11.3% of DOD's energy came from renewables, saving US taxpayers billions of dollars.
Defense installations cover 28 million acres. Of those, 16 million acres are available for potential development and about 13 million acres are in the west and are deemed high in wind, solar and geothermal resources. The military is studying offshore wind on the Atlantic coast, Pacific coast, Gulf of Mexico and in Hawaii. Offshore Atlantic winds alone could produce an estimated 1,000 GW of energy, the two agencies estimate.
A new memorandum of understanding between the Defense Department and DOI creates a framework for potential development. The two agencies will explore ways to provide power to individual bases, the potential for creating a network across Defense installations, and policies for selling excess energy back to the grid.
A pilot project will involve solar development on installations in Arizona and California, including the Barry M. Goldwater Range, Arizona; Ft. Irwin, California; and the Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona. The Defense Department will take the lead in permitting and leasing renewable energy projects on lands withdrawn for defense-related purposes.
Since President Obama took office, renewable energy from solar and wind in the US has almost doubled.
Since 2009, the DOI has approved 17 utility-scale solar energy projects on public lands that will produce more than 5,900 megawatts (MWs) of energy upon completion. The agency has also approved 6 onshore wind (more than 800 MWs) and 8 geothermal (424 MWs) in this same time frame.
For the memorandum of understanding: