Siting Renewable Energy "Smart from the Start": A new Primer by NRDC and the Department of Defense Shows the Way

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Today NRDC and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) released a joint renewable energy siting primer called "Working with the Department of Defense: Siting Renewable Energy Development." Here's the reason for this partnership. NRDC's top priority is curbing global warming emissions and building the clean energy future. As the nation's largest energy purchaser and a trusted American institution with a critical energy security mission, DOD plays a huge role in the clean energy sector. So NRDC is working with the Department of Defense to partner on scaling up renewable energy resources in a way that is "smart from the start" - that is, both environmentally sustainable and respectful of military equities.

As the new NRDC/DOD siting primer explains, military readiness, healthy natural resources and the development of renewable energy are all essential to our national interests. Development of clean domestic energy resources strengthens national security by increasing energy security while mitigating the threat posed by climate change. At the same time, large-scale renewable energy projects are often sited on or near land used by DOD for training and testing operations. These same lands also often support critical natural resources and rare and threatened wildlife. Avoiding conflicts with the military mission and with environmental values is a key part of responsibly siting the renewable energy facilities that we need so much and hope to see succeed.

This new siting guide was developed through a collaborative process over the course of almost four years, including two day-long stakeholder meetings with renewable energy developers, federal, state and local siting officials and environmental groups. The guide provides a robust range of factors, siting considerations and information that renewable energy developers and other stakeholders should keep in mind when working with DOD on siting renewable energy projects. The guide aims to assist renewable energy developers and other stakeholders to screen wind and solar projects for success at the very beginning of the siting process by avoiding or mitigating potential conflicts with defense missions or environmental concerns.

NRDC's work with the Department of Defense has also produced another important planning tool that may be helpful to renewable energy developers, military bases and installations, and environmental stakeholders. This just-updated planning tool, called the Renewable Energy and Defense (READ) Database, compiles public geospatial data on DOD base locations, flight training routes, testing and training ranges, radars, and other essential DOD activities, as well as information on environmentally sensitive areas in the Western United States, such as Congressionally-designated wilderness, areas of critical environmental concern, national monuments, and roadless areas. The database also incorporates data from other federal agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Park Service. For access to the READ Database, go here.

Using the READ-Database, in conjunction with the new NRDC/DOD siting primer and the DOD's existing DOD Siting Clearinghouse - a program that allows developers to communicate early, directly and quickly with DOD regarding potential siting conflicts - developers now have access to a critical set of data that will better inform siting decisions, and ideally help avoid costly delays and conflicts. For more information about the DOD Siting Clearinghouse, you can go here or contact

Development of renewable energy, energy conservation, protection of military mission capabilities and protection of our natural resources are all national priorities. The new siting primer provides valuable guidance to all involved in reaching workable solution when these priorities may be in tension.

Many thanks to my NRDC colleagues Dr. Matthew McKinzie, Helen O'Shea and Bobby McEnaney for their work on the new siting primer. We all want to express our thanks and appreciation to Frank DiGiovanni, Director, Force Readiness and Training, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Readiness) and Michael Aimone, Director of Business Enterprise Integration and interim Executive Director of the DOD Siting Clearinghouse, Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Installations and Environment), who were instrumental to producing the new siting primer, and to the many DOD officials who provided invaluable assistance. NRDC is proud to have partnered with the Department of Defense on this important project and we look forward to continued constructive engagement at the intersection of clean energy, the environment, and the military mission.

Mr. DiGiovanni, Mr. Aimone and the NRDC team presented a webinar on the new siting primer on November 19th. The slides are available here.