MOU signed to develop renewable energy on withdrawn US public lands

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Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed the MOU on Monday, August 6. The goal is to create a Renewable Energy Partnership Plan, which develops energy sources including solar, wind, geothermal and biomass resources on and/or near DoD installations in the U.S. to both help improve energy security and lower the DoD’s annual US$4 billion utility bill.

In a statement released, the parties said that each of the military services, of which there are five – army, air force, marine corps, navy and coast guard – has committed to installing one GW of renewable energy by 2025.

"DoD installations encompass roughly 28 million acres in the United States, of which 16 million acres previously managed by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) were withdrawn for military use by Executive Order, congressional legislation or departmental regulations. About 13 million acres of these withdrawn lands are located in the west and are high in wind, solar and geothermal resources," said the statement.

While no specific details have been released, the DoD and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will reportedly develop a pilot process for allowing solar energy projects on several military installations in Arizona and California. The military installations will include the Barry M. Goldwater Range and the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, and Fort Irwin in California.

"The pilot process will reflect the MOU in that DoD will take the lead in permitting and leasing for renewable energy projects on lands withdrawn for defense-related purposes," continued the statement. It added, "Together with advanced microgrid technology, which DoD is testing, renewable energy will allow a base to maintain critical functions for weeks or months if the commercial grid goes down."

It is believed that in addition to investigating ways that renewable energy could be shared across DoD’s installations, excess power could be sold back to the grid.

The statement concluded by saying that since President Obama came to power in 2009, 17 utility-scale solar energy projects have been approved by the Interior on public lands. Prior to this, it said no solar projects had been permitted on such areas. "Thanks to steps already taken by the Administration, renewable energy from sources like wind and solar have doubled since the President took office," it said.