National Defense Industrial Association Blog. MAY 20, 2010. By Sandra Erwin.
The Defense Department expects to remain quite busy fighting the nation’s wars. At home, it also plans to be hard at work feuding against a pesky enemy: Environmental encroachment.
Encroachment is catchall term used by the Pentagon to describe any activity that takes place near military bases and is regarded as intrusive or threatening to activities such as training or testing.
Over the past two decades, encroachers have included suburban sprawl, environmental regulations and, of late, clean-energy projects.
A recent flap involves Defense Department efforts to block construction in Oregon of what could be the largest wind farm in the United States because turbines interfere with air-traffic control radar.
The Air Force operates the radar in Fossil, Ore., which is 70 miles from the proposed wind farm. The Federal Aviation Administration also opposes the project.
Clean-energy projects of the sort are expected to grow in the United States, and the Defense Department is worried about a possible onslaught of encroachment. The Pentagon is the nation’s largest landowner, with more than 500 military bases. It is also the single largest consumer of energy in the United States.
Officials predict that encroachment is only going to get worse as more wind and solar farms, or even offshore drilling, get under way.
“This is huge issue for us in the Defense Department,” said Maureen Sullivan, director of environmental management at the office of the secretary of defense. By contrast, in years past, energy encroachment disputes have been relatively minor, she said at a forum in Washington, D.C., hosted by Global Green USA.
Given the anticipated expansion of renewable energy projects in the United States, the Defense Department is struggling with how to deal with what could be increasingly more complex challenges, Sullivan said.
Legal wrangles over the use of land, air or water where the U.S. military operates or trains will put the Defense Department in the uncomfortable position of having to rebuff green projects at a time when the Pentagon is promoting its own efforts to generate and use renewable energy.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates set a goal of producing or procuring 25 percent of the department’s electric energy needs from renewable sources by 2025. That is an ambitious objective considering that only 5 percent of the military’s electricity today comes from renewable sources.
The services are pursuing a number of green programs. The Navy is developing a "green" carrier strike group to run completely on alternative fuels by 2016. The Army is building a 500-megawatt solar power generation plant in Fort Irwin, Calif. The Air Force has a goal of meeting 25 percent of base energy needs with renewable energy sources by 2025. The Marine Corps has launched a campaign aimed at reducing energy intensity, water consumption and increasing the use of renewable electric energy. The Environmental Protection Agency even named the Air Force, as one of its “Green Power” partners and the top renewable energy purchaser in the country in 2006, noted Schuyler Null, a research assistant at Global Green USA.