7,000MW of Solar Energy Potential on CA Military Bases


A recent Department of Defense (DoD) study found huge potential for solar deployment on military bases in California. Responding to a Congressional request, the DoD spent a year evaluating the potential for affordable solar energy on military bases in California and Nevada. Although 96% of the land on the bases was deemed incompatible with solar, the DoD identified 25,000 acres that are “suitable” and 100,000 acres that are “likely” or “questionably” suitable for solar.

If solar were deployed on all the suitable land and 25% of the likely suitable land, seven thousand (7,000) megawatts (MW) of energy could be generated – equivalent to the output of seven nuclear power plants and 30 times the energy consumed by the bases today!

The study made an in-depth review of seven DoD installations in California’s Mojave and Colorado deserts: Fort Irwin, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, the Marine Corps’ Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, Edwards Airport Base, Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms and Naval Air Facility El Centro. It also reviewed the potential for solar at two Air Force bases in Nevada, Creech and Nellis. It excluded locations based on conflict with the base’s core mission and land needs, the presence of cultural and biological resources, and other conflicts as well as reviewing the technical feasibility of six different types of solar technology.

As important as the identification of these locations is, the study also concludes private developers could tap the solar potential of these locations with no capital investment from DoD. Given the tax incentives and abundant solar resources, these sites provide a strong rate of return for investors. What’s more-- the federal government could get up to $100 million a year in revenue in rental payments, reduced cost power, and in-kind considerations from these developments.

And even if all 7,000MW couldn’t be generated and sent back to the grid, solar development on less than half of the identified lands would be sufficient to meet the DoD’s stated goal of 25% of facility energy supplied by renewable energy by 2025. It also takes the DoD one further step toward its goal of immunizing itself from threats to the electricity grid.

Energy security, affordable solar power and a net money maker for the federal government… Why isn’t this happening already?