U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Geothermal Technologies Office

Defense, Interior Departments Pursue Renewable Energy on Federal Lands

August 8, 2012

Photo of a large field of solar panels in the desert.

The Defense Department is ramping up its deployment of renewable energy systems, such as this 14-megawatt solar power system at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, which provides about a quarter of the base's electricity needs.
Credit: Nellis AFB

The Interior Department announced on August 6 that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that encourages appropriate development of renewable energy projects on public lands that are set aside for defense-related purposes, and on other onshore and offshore areas near military installations. The MOU establishes the Renewable Energy Partnership Plan, which aims to harness the solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass energy resources located on or near military installations across the country.

Department of Defense (DoD) installations encompass roughly 28 million acres in the United States, including 16 million acres previously managed by the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that were withdrawn for military use. About 13 million acres of these withdrawn lands are located in the West and are rich in wind, solar, and geothermal resources. In addition, offshore wind is an abundant renewable energy resource available to many DoD installations on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, along the Gulf of Mexico, and in Hawaii.

Access to renewable energy will allow a military base to maintain critical functions for weeks or months if the commercial grid goes down. To keep the military operating in the event of a grid failure, each of the military services has committed to deploy one gigawatt of renewable energy on or near its installations by 2025. In pursuit of these goals, the MOU establishes a framework for an offshore wind partnership and forum; provides a blueprint for Interior and the DoD to identify onshore renewable energy projects at DoD installations; creates a working group on geothermal energy; and commits the DoD and the BLM to developing a pilot process for authorizing solar energy projects on several military installations in Arizona and California. See the Interior Department press release and the MOUPDF.