Military lands targeted for renewables development

The Department of the Interior and the Department of Defense are seeking ways to expand renewable energy on military lands and other onshore or offshore sites near installations.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that encourages such development.

The military controls about 28 million acres of land of which 16 million acres were dedicated for use by the armed forces. About 13 million acres of these withdrawn lands are located in the west and are high in wind, solar and geothermal resources.

The MOU sets out the guiding concepts for the Renewable Energy Partnership Plan, the departments’ roles and responsibilities under the agreement, and how they will work together to carry out the initiative. A major goal of the partnership is to harness the proven solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy resources on or near DoD installations.

“Energy security is critical to our national security. Under our ‘Smart from the Start’ approach to spurring renewable energy development, we are making millions of acres of public lands and offshore areas available that have the greatest potential for utility-scale solar and wind projects and the fewest resource conflicts,” Salazar said.

DoD is pursuing the development of renewable energy on its installations, especially since the Obama administration has been in office. It also is the largest energy consumer, with a $4bn annual bill. Each of the military branches has committed to deploy 1 GW of renewable energy on or near its installations by 2025.

Offshore wind also is an abundant renewable energy resource available to many DoD installations on the Atlantic coast, Pacific coast, Gulf of Mexico and in Hawaii. Offshore Atlantic winds alone could produce an estimated 1,000 GW.

The MOU establishes a framework for an offshore wind partnership within which Interior and DoD will continue to work together to identity areas most appropriate for offshore wind development. To encourage a dialogue with industry, the DoD and Interior will co-chair a military/industry offshore wind forum this fall to initiate information-sharing among the military, other federal agencies, and industry.

The MOU also provides a blueprint for cooperation between Interior and DoD to identify lands that don’t compromise its mission. Energy produced on the sites could be used at that location, or on a network of sites, with excess sold into the civilian grid.

As part of the MOU, DoD and the Bureau of Land Management will develop a pilot process for authorizing solar energy projects on several military installations in Arizona and California, including the Barry M. Goldwater Range, Arizona; Ft. Irwin, California; and the Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.