A day after the Defense and Interior departments formed a Renewable Energy Partnership to develop solar energy projects on military installations in the Southwest, the Army kicked off a procurement to buy as much as $7 billion worth of renewable energy from plants located on its bases. The efforts highlight growing concerns about the military’s reliance on the commercial power grid at domestic installations.
The partnership covers 5,300 square miles, including property owned by the Bureau of Land Management but that has been withdrawn for military use. The memorandum of understanding that Defense and Interior signed Monday jump-starts the interagency process for developing renewable energy projects.
Defense, the largest energy consumer in the world, has a $4 billion a year electric bill and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the partnership “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 said the agreement covers installations that have the “the greatest potential for utility-scale solar and wind projects and the fewest resource conflicts.”
The departments will develop solar energy projects on federal land at the Army’s Yuma Proving Ground and the adjacent Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, which together sprawl over 4,300 square miles of southwestern Arizona. Yuma is the sunniest city in the world and averages more than 4,000 hours of sunshine a year.
Defense and Interior also plan to develop solar energy plants at Fort Irwin, Calif., a 1,000-square-mile installation in the Mojave Desert, 300 miles north of Yuma. The agreement also calls for the two departments to design plans to tap geothermal energy on military installations and to set up a geothermal plant at one unspecified base.
In addition, Defense and Interior will work together to develop offshore wind power compatible with military missions -- improperly sited wind farms could interfere with military operations, the memorandum said.
The Army consumed 9,775,876 megawatt hours of electricity in 2010 at a cost of $1.2 billion. The service wants to generate 2.1 million megawatts of power from renewable energy resources by 2025.
The $7 billion renewable energy procurement the Army issued Tuesday covers the installation of solar, wind, biomass and geothermal power plants at Army installations nationwide, Katherine Hammock, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, told reporters.
The Army will buy power through 30-year purchase agreements, Hammock said, with private industry responsible for design, construction and finance of the renewable energy plants. The Defense-Interior partnership will ensure BLM land that Defense uses will be available for the life of the 30-years contracts, she said.
The Army attracted 130 companies that expressed interest in the renewable energy project when its issued a draft request for proposals in February, Hammock said, an indication the service will attract a substantial number of bidders for the contract, which will match bidders, technology and bases through task orders. Bids in the renewable energy contract are due Oct 5.
The Army wants to ensure operational security by reducing its reliance on imported oil, she said.