A partnership between the Interior and Defense departments will reopen 16 million acres of land to renewable energy development. The goal? To help ensure reliable energy supplies for the nation’s military bases, while protecting the environment and saving taxpayer money.

In a conference call earlier today, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding establishing a partnership between the two government agencies. This partnership will open up land previously managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and subsequently reassigned for military use. The vast majority of this land is located in the west, including large swaths in Nevada. According to Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (a Democrat from Nevada):

“This agreement is going to help save taxpayers billions of dollars in fuel costs, increase national security, and help protect the environment.”

This is the latest step in the push to more self-reliant military bases. Each branch of the U.S. military is currently working to install 1 GW of renewable power generation on or near military installations. And, due to security concerns, bases are also being equipped with technology to create their own microgrids that will allow them to keep the lights on in absence of the commercial electric grid.

These projects will help to ensure reliable energy supplies in the case of failures in the electric grid. According to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta:

“Developing renewable energy is the right thing to do for national security as well as for the environment and our economy.”

Highlighted in the memorandum were offshore wind generation opportunities for coastal bases. Solar, biomass, and geothermal were also discussed.

By developing renewable energy technologies along with microgrid technologies, the Adminstration believes that they can make a big impact on the military’s $4 billion annual utility bill. And, simultaneously, eliminate the need for the countless diesel back-up generators that are currently used when the power goes out.

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