Army targets big renewable energy projects

With lots of land suitable for solar and wind, the Army creates a task force to accelerate its program to get 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

The Army is seeking to install more large-scale renewable energy installations, such as this solar system at Nellis Air Force base in Nevada. U.S. Air Force

The U.S. Army needs more steel in the ground when it comes to renewable energy.

The Army today announced a special task force called the Energy Initiatives Office (EIO) designed to speed up deployment of solar and wind power at its bases. The task force is being created to help meet the Army's ambitious goal of getting 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

"We view ourselves as a target-rich environment for doing a better job with taxpayer dollars and being good stewards of the environment," said John McHugh, secretary of the Army during a call with the media today. "To meet our longer-term objectives...we have to do better."

The EIO is meant to address complaints from the private sector that the Army is too slow and bureaucratic by providing a single point of expertise for outside companies to work with. The task force is set to be in place by September 15.

The Army is targeting renewable energy installation around the size of 10 megawatts. In solar, that's a very large installation but not the size of a utility-scale power plant, which would be hundreds of megawatts. The goal is to involve private industry investors into these projects, said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.

For multi-megawatt solar projects, an energy developer typically owns and finances the installation. The customer, which could be a government organization or corporation, purchases the power at a fixed rate over the course of 20 or 30 years.

"When we partner with the private sector, it ensures that the efforts are prudent because it has to make financial sense for the Army," Hammack said.

Reaching its renewable energy targets will require $7.1 billion in investments over the next 10 years, the Army estimates. The Department of Defense consumes about 80 percent of the energy from the federal government and the Army represents about 20 percent of that total, said McHugh.

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