By Jennifer Schultz and Jocelyn Durkay

The Department of Defense (DoD) operates more than 420 major military installations in 47 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico. While the DoD is a strong proponent of renewable energy, the department is also responsible for ensuring that wind turbines, solar panels and other infrastructure located on or near military installations do not conflict with test and training activities.

Specifically, utility-scale renewable energy and related electrical transmission projects can interfere with military operations by obstructing low-level flight paths and creating electromagnetic or visual disturbance. This interference—termed encroachment—threatens the military's ability to perform its mission.

In 2010, DoD established a Siting Clearinghouse as a one-stop shop for state and local governments working to address the potential impacts of renewable energy development on military operations. In addition to conducting expedited reviews of proposed energy projects, the Clearinghouse is leading research to minimize adverse impacts on military activities. The Clearinghouse also manages the READ-Database, a mapping tool that allows energy developers to identify sites that may interfere with military activities and environmentally sensitive areas.

State legislatures have been working with the Clearinghouse and other stakeholders to prevent and mitigate energy-related encroachment on military installations, to reduce costs and preserve the military mission. Several states—such as California and North Carolina—have established siting and permitting processes that consider compatibility with military operations by including military personnel in the energy planning process.

In the 2014 legislative session, at least nine states considered legislation concerning energy projects on or near military installations. For example, Rhode Island enacted legislation this year that creates a military facilities protection program to address encroachment, mission sustainment and base retention through best practices for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, among other avenues.

Join NCSL for a free webinar on July 31 to hear experts from states and the federal government discuss policy options to lessen potential impacts on DoD operations without hindering renewable energy development.

Jocelyn Durkay is a policy associate in NCSL's Environment, Energy and Transportation program; Jennifer Schultz is a research analyst in NCSL's Environment, Energy and Transportation program and staffs the NCSL Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs. Email Jocelyn.Email Jennifer.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.


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