A new Defense Department report has good news for solar power potential, but only if the government takes necessary measures to unlock that potential. First, here's the good news:
Military bases in the Western United States could be hidden harnessers of the sun's power — providing thousands of megawatts of solar power and leading to millions of dollars in revenue and reduced energy bills for the government.
The Defense Department's Office of Installations and the Environment, in a new study, estimates there's enough vacant land on seven military bases, stretching from California to Nevada, to generate 7,000 megawatts of solar energy — the same as seven nuclear power plants.
And that's after subtracting 96 percent of the available land to keep it for military exercises or protecting endangered species.
Sounds great! So, when are we going to start tapping into this enormous potential for clean, economical, domestically-produced, and inexhaustible energy? The answer clearly should be "tomorrow," except for one main problem: "the convoluted landscape of federal law and regulations." Specifically:
Solar development on military bases is governed by a "complex web of laws, regulations and market rules, administered by public and quasi-public entities" at nearly every level of government, the study found.
This "convoluted landscape of federal law and regulations," many of them "written before solar energy made an impact on the renewable-energy market," poses an unfortunate, and largely unnecessary, obstacle to unlocking the tremendous solar potential mentioned above. The solution, clearly, is to streamline the regulations and to update them to today's world, in which solar prices are falling rapidly, and in which the need for that energy - for economic, national security, and environmental reasons - is greater than ever.