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More Military Movement: Department of Defense and Department of Interior Sign MOU Encouraging Development of Renewable Energy on Federal Lands

August 09, 2012 posted by Eric Christensen

To support the twin goals of increasing the nation's energy security and promoting development of renewable energy resources, the Department of Defense ("DOD") and Department of the Interior ("DOI") recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") focusing on 13 million acres of federal land that have been "withdrawn" for military purposes, as well as lands on the Outer Continental Shelf ("OCS") suitable for offshore wind development. By clarifying jurisdictional lines and administrative responsibilities, the MOU helps ease renewable energy development, especially for wind, solar, and geothermal power. In the West, millions of acres of federal land have been "withdrawn" from general use, and instead have been reserved for military uses, principally military bases and vast training ranges such as those in central Washington, southwest Idaho, southern Nevada, and eastern California. The MOU promises cooperation between DOD and DOI to encourage development of geothermal, solar, and wind resources on these lands. Without such cooperation, developing these lands can be a daunting prospect. For example, in may cases, withdrawn lands under DOI jurisdiction are interspersed with DOD-owned lands, resulting in different legal regimes governing immediately adjacent parcels. If these obstacles can be overcome, the potential pay-off is huge. For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has estimated that military bases in the continental U.S. have the potential to produce between 630 and 926 GW of electric power from geothermal resources. In addition, the MOU establishes an "Offshore Wind Partnership Plan" aimed at encouraging offshore wind generation. The MOU notes that the potential exists for 4,000 gigawatts of wind generation on the Outer Continental Shelf relatively close to coastal load centers. The MOU promises to ease regulatory roadblocks to developing this energy by, for example, allowing substations to be placed on military property near offshore wind sites and also creating a mechanism to resolve potential conflicts between energy development and military requirements. The MOU, along with a number of other U.S. military initiatives, such as the U.S. Army's $7 billion RFP for renewable energy discussed in our August 8 blog post, is part of a sustained effort by the DOD to encourage renewable energy production. Collectively, these initiatives promise to stimulate the market for renewables at a time when the market has suffered under a combination of low demand, low prices, and inaction on federal tax incentive policies. If you have any questions about the MOU and responding to the military's need for renewable energy, please contact a member of GTH's Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology practice group. We have years of experience in the energy industry, electricity, project development, financing, licensing, and related fields.