The Department of Defense and the Interior Department announced a new memorandum of understanding today to encourage renewable energy development on public lands set aside for defense-related purposes and other onshore and offshore areas near military installations.
The partnership will focus on solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy. DoD installations encompass roughly 28 million acres in the United States, of which 16 million acres previously managed by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) were withdrawn for military use by executive order, congressional legislation or departmental regulations and are now made available for renewable energy purposes. About 13 million acres of these withdrawn lands are located in the West.
“Developing renewable energy is the right thing to do for national security as well as for the environment and our economy,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said. “Renewable energy projects built on these lands will provide reliable, local sources of power for military installations; allow for a continued energy supply if the commercial power grid gets disrupted; and will help lower utility costs.”
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, on a conference call with reporters today, called the agreement “another major milestone in implementing the new energy frontier.”
Salazar said the DoD and the BLM will “develop a pilot process for authorizing specific solar related projects on military installations and in the sun-drenched Southwest including Arizona and California.”
“We need to remember that when President Obama took office, there were zero — no solar projects permitted on public lands, everything had been stalled,” Salazar added. “Since that time — since 2009, under President Obama’s leadership, Interior has approved 17 utility scale solar energy projects.”
Joining Salazar on the call was Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who promised “this agreement’s going to help save taxpayers billions of dollars in fuel costs, increase our national security and help protect the environment.”
Reid and Salazar will be at the fifth National Clean Energy Summit tomorrow in Las Vegas. Former President Bill Clinton will give the keynote address.