US military bases could host 7GW of solar, says DoD study

US military bases in California’s Mojave Desert could host 7GW of economically viable solar power, even after eliminating 96% of their land area to account for conflicts with military uses, environmental concerns and other factors.

A study, commissioned by the Department of Defense (DoD) environmental research programmes and carried out by ICF International, says the power-production potential is equal to 25% of California’s 2015 utility renewable-energy requirement.

The DoD, the largest US energy consumer with a $4bn annual bill, has become a leading advocate for and consumer of renewable energy as it looks to mitigate security risks associated with fossil fuels and centralised, grid-connected electricity generation.

Renewable generation on bases, coupled with smart microgrids and storage “would allow a military base to maintain its critical operations ‘off-grid’ for weeks or months if the grid is disrupted”, the study says.

The DoD wants 25% of the energy used at its facilities to come from renewable sources by 2025.

Of nine bases examined — seven in California and two in Nevada — only four could host significant amounts of solar. Large swathes of land were eliminated because they are part of undeveloped training and weapons test ranges. Others were excluded because solar could pose conflicts with radio frequency, visual signals or infrared technologies.

The most economically viable bases for solar in California are Edwards Air Force Base; Fort Irwin; Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake; and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms.