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Feasibility Study Outlines Key Steps to Exploit Solar Potential at DOD Installations

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  • January 17, 2012
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Taking advantage of the potential for solar development at military installations will require the federal government to overcome a number of hurdles, including the lack of transmission capacity and the need to clarify the status of “withdrawn lands,” according to a feasibility analysis released Friday by DOD’s office of Installations and Environment.

The lack of transmission capacity is the single largest barrier to large-scale solar development at the seven California installations examined by the study’s authors, ICF International. ICF concluded that four of the California installations it considered offer the potential to generate 7,000 megawatts of solar energy that could be profitably tapped by the private sector and could yield the federal government $100 million per year in revenue.

Resolving the existing disagreement among DOD, the services and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over which agency has the authority to manage renewable energy development on withdrawn lands is another challenge that, if solved, would help the Pentagon realize its goal of developing utility-scale solar energy projects. Withdrawn lands, which are managed as part of the public domain by BLM, are tracts that have been withdrawn from the operation of public land laws for military use. Withdrawn lands make up the majority of lands within the boundaries of the bases included in the study.

The study also recommended that DOD develop a model for assessing whether military lands are compatible with solar, or other forms of renewable energy, development. The authors found that “conflicts with mission performance” was the single most important factor limiting the potential for solar development at the bases considered. While the study relied on discussions with range operators and training managers to determine what portions of the installations could support solar projects, a model would make it easier for the renewable energy industry to evaluate an installation’s potential for hosting energy projects.

The 532-page report is available from the website for the Strategic Environmental Research and Development and Environmental Security Technology Certification programs.

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