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The Department of Defense and the Department of Energy signed a memorandum of understanding that encourages development of renewable energy projects on public lands set aside for defense-related purposes.

The memorandum was signed by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

“Developing renewable energy is the right thing to do for national security as well as for the environment and our economy,” Panetta said. “Renewable energy projects built on these lands will provide reliable, local sources of power for military installations; allow for a continued energy supply if the commercial power grid gets disrupted; and will help lower utility costs.”

The MOU sets out the guiding concepts for the Renewable Energy Partnership Plan, the departments’ roles and responsibilities under the agreement, and how they will work together to carry out the initiative. A major goal of the partnership is to harness the significant proven solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy resources on or near DOD installations across the country.

DOD is aggressively pursuing the development of renewable energy on its installations both to improve the energy security of the installations and to reduce the Department’s $4 billion-a-year utility bill.

“Energy security is critical to our national security. Under our ‘Smart from the Start’ approach to spurring renewable energy development, we are making millions of acres of public lands and offshore areas available that have the greatest potential for utility-scale solar and wind projects and the fewest resource conflicts,” said Salazar, who announced today’s agreement on the eve of the National Clean Energy Summit 5.0. “Our nation’s military lands hold great renewable energy potential, and this partnership will help ensure that we’re tapping into these resources with a smart and focused approach to power our military, reduce energy costs, and grow our nation’s energy independence.”

DOD installations encompass roughly 28 million acres in the United States, of which 16 million acres previously managed by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management were withdrawn for military use by executive order, congressional legislation or departmental regulations.

About 13 million acres of these withdrawn lands are located in the west and are high in wind, solar and geothermal resources.

Offshore wind also is an abundant renewable energy resource available to many DOD installations on the Atlantic coast, Pacific coast, Gulf of Mexico and in Hawaii. Offshore Atlantic winds alone could produce an estimated 1,000 gigawatts of energy.

The MOU establishes a framework for an offshore wind partnership within which Interior and DOD will continue to work together to identity areas most appropriate for offshore wind development. To encourage a dialogue with industry, the DOD and Interior will co-chair a military/industry offshore wind forum this fall to initiate information-sharing among the military, other federal agencies and industry.