The U.S. Department of Defense plans to open up 16 million acres of its land for renewable energy development, which it hopes will create a boom of solar, wind and geothermal projects and provide clean power to military bases.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed a memorandum of understanding to work together on promoting renewable energy generation projects on public land that has historically been restricted for military uses. About 13 million of those 16 million acres are located in western U.S., where a lot of solar, wind and geothermal power development already has been taking place on private and other types of public land.
The administration has been making a strong push for renewable energy development by funding both technology research and power generation projects. The administration wants to accomplish two goals by supporting renewable energy: creating jobs and finding alternative, cleaner and more abundant power sources domestically.
Last month, Salazar unveiled a roadmap for speeding up solar power project development on 285,000 acres of public land in six western states.
The government support for renewable energy has indeed propelled the development of advanced materials and equipment and the construction of some of the largest solar power plants in the country.
The Monday announcement by the Defense and Interior departments involved not only land set aside for the military but also offshore locations near military installations. The goal is to promote onshore and offshore energy projects, such as erecting wind turbines in the sea.
The military has been vocal about its support of renewable energy, from electricity to transportation fuels, that it says will help it become more self-sufficient and reduce its vulnerabilities in the battle fields.
“Renewable energy will allow a military base to maintain critical operations for weeks or months if an electric power grid goes down,” she said.
The military wants to attract developers and private investments for building solar, wind and other renewable electricity power projects on its land. It plans to lease the land to developers and buy some or all of the power from each project for its own use, and any unused power will be sold local utilities, Robyn said. Each of the military services plans on getting 1 gigawatt of renewable energy installed near its bases by 2025.
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