The Army has been executing renewable energy projects at its installations for several years now, and its Office of Energy Initiatives (OEI) continues to become more comfortable with its contracting authority and flexible with its project structures. Throughout the transition in leadership that took place early this year, OEI has remained especially open to outreach from industry stakeholders who wish to provide input on best practices in the renewable energy market generally and the federal procurement process specifically. This outreach is always conducted in the context of "market research" with the understanding that each project must be fully and openly competed through the issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP) and ultimately awarded to the best offeror.
Recently, it has become apparent that the Army has a significant pipeline of new RFPs in the works likely to constitute hundreds of megawatts in project opportunities for the industry in the coming months. These upcoming projects will hopefully include aggregated procurements for rooftop solar PV across installations such as Army National Guard sites. The attraction of procuring renewable energy for the aggregated demand of numerous facilities is that such projects can leverage economies of scale and bank the saved development and transaction costs over procuring installation by installation. There is even discussion regarding conducting aggregated procurements across military services, utilizing the newly formed partnership between OEI and the Air Force’s Office of Energy Assurance (OEA), which will hopefully materialize given the significant resiliency benefits that can be accomplished with this approach.
Additionally, many of these upcoming solicitations may be in the form of Enhanced Use Leases (EULs) whereby the Army leases land or space to a developer in exchange for cash payments or an in-kind consideration (IKC) that enhances the energy security posture of the installation(s). Indeed, EULs have become a "known quantity" to the service and may represent a preference going forward in place of other contracting vehicles. Furthermore, while Assistant Secretary Katherine Hammack remains emphatic on the importance of onsite renewable energy generation in any procurement, there is an increasing openness to a "hybrid" procurement model where the Army procures both power offsite along with a smaller onsite component, as was accomplished with the wind project at Fort Hood in Texas. Since the Army cannot exceed its current energy costs in these projects, the hybrid development model can enable deployments of resiliency that would not otherwise be economically feasible.
The Army has a strong foundation of contracting experience and success. We are at a critical juncture where that fundamental experience can be utilized to accomplish the ultimate goal of this initiative, which is energy resiliency at a cost-competitive prices. Despite a looming change in administration, we hope and encourage the Army to build on its success to date to deploy the clean, reliable, and cost-competitive solutions that are now available.