On the heels of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) decision to consider up to 16 million acres of military land for renewable energy projects, the Army is actively seeking private sector partners to help make that development happen.
The US Army Corps of Engineers is issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for up to $7 billion in contracts to purchase "reliable, locally generated, renewable and alternative energy."
The Army plans to purchase renewable energy under 30-year power purchase agreements (or less) from private contractors. The government isn’t looking to acquire generation assets, says the Army Corps of Engineers. Contractors will finance, design, build, operate, own and maintain the energy plants.
Contracts will be awarded to large and small businesses that produce solar, wind, geothermal or biomass energy.
And the RFP goes way beyond even military-owned land – it applies to projects sited on any US federal property – in the US, US territories, or other property under the control of the US government.
"We believe the Federal Renewable and Alternative Energy contract will provide the Army with an important means to achieve its goal of one gigawatt of renewable energy projects by 2025," says Secretary of the Army John McHugh.
In April, the DoD set a goal of deploying 3 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy by 2025, enough to power 750,000 homes.
Each military arm committed to deploying 1 GW. That represents 25% of the military’s energy use and will cost $10 billion a year.
Energy security – which includes the consequences of climate change – and the need to reduce the military’s $4 billion annual power budget costs are two factors driving the US military’s interest in clean energy.
Noting that almost every military capability relies on energy, DoD states its Operational Energy Strategy Implementation Plan will "transform the way" it uses energy.
Defense Department Details Energy Investments
To offer a better sense of how the Defense Department is hedging its energy investments, the agency has just issued a report outlining its plans.
Across the five-year Future Years Defense Program, the Defense Department is budgeting $1.6 billion for initiatives that will improve energy use and $9 billion in energy security investments, says the report’s author Sharon Burke, assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs. That compares with the $16.3 billion the department budgeted for petroleum in 2013. (The report is required under the 2009 Defense Authorization Act.)
“What I found was that [the investments] track very well with the strategy,” says Burke. “About 90% of the investments will go to reduce demand for energy so to improve our energy performance and our energy efficiency. And the remaining 10% is mostly for alternative and renewable energy.”
The investments the military is making in energy are meant to reduce demand for fuel, to diversify energy supplies and to help incorporate both of those ideas into future force investments.
Some examples of those investments include more efficient shelters and ruggedized solar devices that the Marines plan to deploy in Afghanistan, to engine upgrades for the KC-135 aerial refueling tanker, microgrid installations and many more, says Burke.
For the Army Corps of Engineers’ RFP: