Earlier this year, the Navy, Army, and Air Force committed to deploy three gigawatts total of renewable energy on service installations by 2025. In late July, the Department of the Interior (“DOI”) and the Department of Defense (“DOD”) took the first steps to implement this policy by entering into a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) aimed to facilitate the federal government’s goals of increasing renewable energy generation from federal lands and the Outer Continental Shelf.

The MOU establishes three programs for developing appropriate, mission-compatible renewable energy near military installations or on public lands withdrawn for military purposes.

One program is an Installation Renewable Energy Partnership Plan (“Installation Partnership Plan”) for siting projects on or near DOD installations[1] to provide power for the military and excess power to the grid. This plan identified six DOD installations to serve as pilots in an interagency process to authorize solar energy projects in California[2] and Arizona.[3] This plan also calls for the identification of areas on withdrawn lands for other types of renewable energy development.[4] The Installation Partnership Plan adds to other service-specific renewable energy development programs already in progress, such as the U.S. Army’s recent $7 billion Request for Proposals (“RFP”) for renewable and alternative energy.[5]

Another program introduced by the MOU is an Offshore Wind Partnership Plan (“Offshore Wind Partnership”) near DOD coastal installations along the eastern seaboard, the Pacific coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and Hawaii. The Offshore Wind Partnership could result in potential project efficiencies, including security, land for a substation, and potential landing sites on coastal DOD installations. An offshore wind generator could also enter into an offtake contract with the military, which tends to have relatively consistent and predictable energy requirements.[6]

The final partnership program is the Alaska Initiative, which seeks to increase renewable energy generation in Alaska and will likely focus on wind, biomass, geothermal, and tidal and wave energy generation. In addition to federal installations, the Alaska Initiative would promote the development of small-scale renewable energy packages for off-grid, remote locations, including Native Alaskan villages.

Given these new federal initiatives, DOD installations—and in particular lands withdrawn from public lands for military purposes—present a substantial opportunity for renewable energy development. DOD installations encompass almost 30 million acres of land, 16 million of which were public lands formerly managed by the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) before being withdrawn for military purposes and 13 million of which are high in solar, wind, and geothermal resources. Furthermore, the MOU directs the Interagency Land Use Coordinating Committee (“ILUCC”) [7] to seek legislative clarification on the real property and resource aspects of renewable energy projects on withdrawn lands.

Improved access to DOD installations and military customers presents a new opportunity for onshore and offshore renewable energy development. As the processes in the MOU unfold alongside other DOD policies[8]—and, in particular, as long as federal agencies continue to develop processes for agency land-use coordination through initiatives like the ILUCC—utility-scale renewable energy developers should find an increasing number of opportunities to engage in projects on military land or with military customers that will improve military readiness,  enhance national security, and provide other renewable energy benefits.

A map of DOD installations across the United States is provided here.