Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Twentynine Palms Marine Base Good Fit for Solar Projects

The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms has been singled out as one of four California desert military bases with the potential for large-scale solar development.

The report, released Friday by the Department of Defense, estimated that privately funded solar development at Edwards Air Force Base, the Army's Fort Irwin and the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake, along with Twentynine Palms, could generate 7,000 megawatts of power.

That much electricity could provide 30 times the energy needed at the four bases or one-quarter of the electricity California needs to meet its goal of producing 33 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2016, according to a department news release.

Assuming all projects on the bases would be privately funded, the report said the solar plants could also pump $100 million a year into federal government coffers, without costing it a cent, the report said.

The study looked at open land at nine bases in the California and Nevada deserts, gauging the amount of land suitable for solar development and potential conflicts between any renewable projects and the facilities' military missions.

Only four bases were found to have land suitable for solar.

Twentynine Palms has the smallest area of suitable land, only 553 acres of the high desert base's 595,578-acre total.

That's pretty small, compared to the other three bases, which ranged from 6,777 acres at China Lake to 24,327 acres at Edwards, said Jim Ricker, a civilian assistant chief of staff at the base.

“We are looking to do a private-party venture for a photovoltaic solar field in the near future,” said Ricker, who could not provide further details.

“Whatever we do, it helps us lower our consumption,” he said.

The Twentynine Palms base has received several awards from the federal government for its energy- efficiency programs — most recently, a Secretary of the Navy Environmental Award for its sustainability programs.

The U.S. military has become a major investor in renewable energy and green technology. A report from the Pew Environmental Group released in September noted that the Department of Defense spent more than $1 billion on energy efficiency and sustainability in 2010 and is on track to invest $10 billion by 2030.


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