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DoD-Interior agreement opens way for more renewable energy projects

Aug. 6, 2012 - 04:26PM   |  
By SARAH CHACKO   |   Comments
The moon rises behind wind turbines.
The moon rises behind wind turbines. (David McNew / Getty Images)

The Interior and Defense departments announced an agreement Monday to pave the way for more renewable energy projects on or near military bases.

Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages more than half of the lands on U.S. military bases, and it has the ability to revoke DoD’s rights to use the land if it is not used for military purposes, such as test ranges.

Under a new memorandum of understanding, the departments will identify which federal lands — including those on military bases — can be used for solar, wind and other renewable energy projects.

About 13 million acres of the BLM-managed land on or near military bases in the western United States are high in wind, solar and geothermal resources, according to a news release from the Interior and Defense departments. Other DoD installations along the coasts and in Hawaii can harness offshore wind resources.

“Our nation’s military lands hold great renewable energy potential, and this partnership will help ensure that we’re tapping into these resources with a smart and focused approach to power our military, reduce energy costs, and grow our nation’s energy independence,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in the news release.

Under the agreement:

• DoD and BLM will develop a pilot process for authorizing solar energy projects on several military installations in Arizona and California, including: the Barry M. Goldwater Range, Ariz.; Fort Irwin, Calif.; and the Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz. DoD will take the lead in permitting and leasing for renewable energy projects on lands set aside for defense-related purposes.

• Interior and DoD will identity areas for offshore wind development. The departments will co-chair a forum this fall with military and industry leaders to initiate information-sharing.

• The departments will set up a working group on geothermal energy and continue to increase renewable energy production opportunities in Alaska through the Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska.

DoD is already developing renewable energy on its installations to allow the installations to be less dependent on the commercial electrical grid, which is vulnerable to disruptions, and to reduce the department’s $4 billion-a-year utility bill. Each of the military services has committed to creating 1 gigawatt of renewable energy on or near its installations by 2025.

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