August 08, 2012

DOD-Interior Renewable Energy Projects Could Help Mitigate Grid Vulnerability

On Monday, the Departments of Defense and Interior formalized a partnership to develop renewable energy at or near DOD facilities aimed in part at strengthening the military’s resiliency to disruptions in the electric grid.

“Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar have signed a memorandum of understanding [MOU] that encourages appropriate development of renewable energy projects on public lands set aside for defense-related purposes and other onshore and offshore areas near military installations,” American Forces Press Service reported on Monday. “Each of the military services has committed to deploy 1 gigawatt of renewable energy on or near its installations by 2025.”

The DOD-Interior MOU comes on the heels of a warning by a top U.S. government official about the vulnerability of the U.S. electric grid. Last month at the Aspen Security Forum, Paul Stockton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs, cautioned that the U.S. electric grid is vulnerable to disruption, particularly from a terrorists attack that could cause a “long term, large scale outage.”

Defense officials are acutely aware of this vulnerability and the implications for DOD’s readiness. The Department of Defense relies on many domestic installations to serve as command and control centers for critical operations abroad, such as drone missions in Afghanistan. “And to make those operations function, we depend on the electric grid,” Stockton said.

Developing renewable energy projects on DOD facilities can help mitigate this vulnerability by helping the military rely less on the civilian electric grid. The effort – known as “islanding” – is intended to insulate DOD facilities from a disruption to the civilian electric grid by generating enough power on base to sustain critical functions for an indefinite period of time.

Further Reading

Just How Vulnerable is DOD’s Grid Security: Not Quite Sure, Says GAO.”

Photo: This field of solar collectors belongs to the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard and was photographed in Swanton, Ohio, Oct. 19, 2009. Courtesy of Senior Airman Jodi Leininger and the U.S. Air Force. 

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