The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has teamed up with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to create a new mapping tool designed to help renewable energy developers to indentify large-scale energy projects that won’t interfere with military activities or environmentally sensitive areas. For example, wind turbines can sometimes interfere with military base technical radar systems. Wind farms located near Travis Air Force Base in California required the military to use other local radar installations out of range of the turbines’ range.
Released in early November, the NRDC’s Renewable Energy and Defense Database, or READ, is based on geographic information systems (GIS) that tracks DOD activities such as DOD base, testing and training ranges; low-altitude, high-speed military flight training routes and special-use airspace; and U.S. weather and air surveillance radar. The database is an interactive planning tool to help ensure that new renewable energy sites avoid conflicts with these activities.
READ is available on the NRDC website and also provides data on environmentally sensitive areas as well as designated wilderness environment areas, national monuments, and areas without roads. The database uses information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Park Service, and other sources to provide information previously not available to energy developers.
In a November 9th news release from the Department of Defense, Frank C. DiGiovanni, director of training readiness and strategy in the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary for Readiness was quoted as telling the American Forces Press Service that READ represents “a quantum leap” over previous planning tools. David Belote, executive director of the DOD Siting Clearinghouse, was quoted, saying, “NRDCV has created a one-stop shop for developers to prescreen potential project locations for environmental impacts as well as conflicts with military testing, training, and homeland defense operations.”
In a NRDC news release, Kit Kennedy, NRDC’s Clean Energy counsel, said, “Working with the DOD, we can new provide a resource that that takes both environmental and military considerations into account for all renewable energy developers in search of a project site.”
The new NRDC online mapping tool was announced on the heel’s of the Obama administration’s efforts to develop a better approach to clean energy development in the United States, particularly in Western states. In October, U.S. Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, announced the release of a supplement to the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the development of solar energy on public land in six states in the West in hopes of guiding development to appropriate areas on public lands to achieve a viable solar energy program while minimizing impact on wildlife and sensitive lands.