Trading Real Estate for Renewable Energy

Fox news is reporting that the US Army is willing to allow renewable energy development on government land for a future “in-kind” exchange.

In what the story calls an “ambitious mission to house billions of dollars worth of renewable energy projects on bases across the country,” the Army endeavors to build partnerships with companies having established track records and viable plans to build renewable energy generation sites” on what the Army calls “excess” land. Remember that term.

Katherine Hammack, assistant Army secretary for installations, environment and energy, said the available land across Army installations is approximately 5 million acres. Hammack said one hundred responses have been received to date, with 20 projects in the pipeline.

Proposed plans range from wind farms, to solar, to geothermal, and are anticipated to generate $7 billion in private investment over the next ten years. Renewable energy projects would be optimized for specific regions. For example, solar energy could be the primary renewable energy source on Army bases in the southwest. 

The “in-kind” payment for the Army would come after renewable energy generation was established and producing output. In other words, companies would be expected to provide the Army free energy (or energy at a greatly reduced price) once renewable energy facilities were operational. 

The Army is not just interested in getting a good deal on energy. Their efforts are part of a larger “25 by 2025,” goal, where the Army would be at 25% renewable energy usage by the year 2025. The project is being sold as contributing to the military’s “energy security” by not relying on energy sources outside the fences.

What may be less secure is the public’s response to the plan on this side of the fence. The article includes the following sentence that will not go un-noticed by the voting public: “Much of the available land merely serves as a buffer between bases and local communities.” (emphasis mine).

Going beyond the article:

The original intent of much of the “excess” land was to establish a buffer between military operations and local communities. Some private sector renewable energy initiatives have been put on hold as a result of public complaints. Others have been allowed to continue after a compromise was struck between the company and local communities. The compromise usually results in significantly reduced profits for the company. The Army’s estimates could be considered optimistic if compromises are needed with local communities adjacent to Army bases across the US. 

The Army’s redefinition of the buffer to mean available undeveloped land comes on the heels of the US government’s granting of $530 million in taxpayer loans to a solar energy firm. The firm was that some government officials called an example of how renewable energy companies should operate. The company subsequently filed for bankruptcy.

While protests are currently underway against Wall St. greed, would it really take that much to shift the focus away from the money makers to those who literally make the money, and base their decisions at least in part on lobbyist influence?  

I wonder if any groups are checking the availability of OccupyArmyBufferZone.org or similar domains.

Governments and private companies can do amazing things, but so can anger and frustration.