Defense Dept., Interior seek to speed renewables on military lands

It’s also aimed at helping to develop offshore wind projects to power Defense Department sites along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the Gulf of Mexico and Hawaii.

The MOU details several joint efforts, such as a pilot process to authorize solar projects at the Air Force’s Barry Goldwater Range East in Arizona, the Army’s Fort Irwin Front Gate in California and other sites.

Administration officials say developing more green power in concert with so-called micro-grid technology can help reduce the military’s $4 billion annual utility bill while increasing security.

There are large amounts of untapped solar, wind, geothermal and biomass resources on and around U.S. military sites, the agencies said.

Dorothy Robyn, the deputy under secretary of Defense for installations and environment, said reliance on the commercial power grid is risky. Right now, she said, the department has large numbers of backup generators.

“They are expensive, they are not particularly environmentally friendly. We want to be in a position where we can rely more on the combo of micro-grids, which is game changing technology we are helping to pioneer, with renewable energy,” she told reporters on a conference call Monday.

Robyn reiterated comments she has made about grid security in congressional testimony.

“DoD installations are almost entirely dependent on a commercial power grid that is vulnerable to disruption due to aging infrastructure, weather related events and (potentially) direct attacks. According to the Defense Science Board, DoD’s reliance on a fragile grid to deliver electricity to its bases places critical missions at risk,” she said in testimony to a Senate Appropriations Committee panel in March.

The memorandum adds to other green energy programs at Interior and the Pentagon. Each of the military branches is seeking deploy a total of one gigawatt of renewable energy on or near its installations by 2025.