On the eve of the National Clean Energy Summit 5.0, Interior Secretary Salazar announced a joint effort between the Department of the Interior and the Department of Defense (DoD) to identify lands that are used by the military and suitable for renewable energy production. Secretary Salazar and Defense Secretary Panetta have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) establishing a partnership to facilitate the appropriate, mission-compatible use of “withdrawn lands” and other onshore and offshore areas near DoD military installations.

Over time, 16 million acres of federal land, previously managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), were withdrawn for military use. Thirteen million acres of these withdrawn lands have proven to be or are believed to be potential resources for wind, solar, geothermal, and/or biomass energy production. The MOU provides a six-point plan for developing renewable energy on these lands, including developing “a pilot interagency process for authorization of solar energy projects at Barry M. Goldwater Range East (Air Force), Barry M. Goldwater Range West (Marine Corps), Fort Irwin Front Gate (Army), Fort Irwin Red Pass Lake (Army), Fort Irwin Goldstone Sites (Army), and the Yuma Proving Ground (Army).”

The MOU also addresses offshore resources suitable for wind development, stating that properly sited wind generation on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) could produce 4000 gigawatts of power, while improperly sited projects could affect military missions. The departments hope to encourage a dialogue with industry by co-chairing a military/industry offshore wind forum before October 1, 2012, in order to share information among the military, other federal agencies, and industry. The MOU provides two examples of possible DoD involvement in offshore wind projects:  

  • A DoD installation could provide a landing site (security and land for a substation) for generation transmitted from an OCS renewable energy facility.
  • An offtake contract with the military could mitigate some financial risk to a project by providing a significant customer whose energy needs are predictable and consistent.

The departments are also members of the Interagency Working Group of Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska. As part of that effort, the DoD will be assisting with efforts to develop standardized small-scale renewable energy packages to address the power needs of remote, off-grid locations (e.g., isolated Native Alaskan villages)—likely tagging off of the DoD’s microgrid activities (by the way, this year’s Military Smart Grids & Microgrids conference will be in Washington, D.C., from November 14-15).

These measures are expected to help the DoD with its commitment for each military service to deploy one gigawatt of renewable energy on or near its installations by 2025.