Inside the military's multibillion-dollar push for renewables

As the largest consumer of energy in the world, the Department of Defense has a long way to go before becoming a sustainable operation.

But a recent push to purchase 3 gigawatts (GW) of locally generated renewable energy is opening up billions of dollars in market opportunities -- and it's not just energy companies that stand to benefit. Companies that can finance these deals also stand to carve out a substantial piece of this pie.

The military's goal? To become more energy independent.

“By diversifying our installation energy sources to include sustainable, reliable energy, we improve our ability to fulfill our mission during energy interruptions and to better manage price volatility,” said Katherine Hammack, U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Army for installations, energy & environment.

Plans are underway for the Army, Navy and Air Force to each deploy 1 GW of renewable energy on U.S. bases by 2025, an effort announced in April. The 3 GW goal is tied to a 2007 DOD initiative to source 25 percent of its energy from renewables by 2025.

It’s one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history, according to the White House.

Three gigawatts are equivalent to the amount needed to power 750,000 homes, said Hammack.

The military will purchase the power generated through privately owned solar, wind, geothermal or biomass facilities under power purchase agreements.

Companies can build their facilities on military bases or on some of the 16 million acres of military land recently opened for renewable energy development. They will be expected to own and maintain the facilities, as well as arrange private sector financing for its construction and operation.

One aim of the effort is to develop energy security on U.S. military bases, according to DOD spokeswoman Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan.

"Together with smart microgrid and storage technologies, renewable and other forms of on-site energy will allow a military base to maintain its critical operations 'off-grid' for weeks or months if necessary,” said Morgan.

Photo of radar on military base provided by l. akhundova via Shutterstock

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