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Study: US Department of Defense could generate 7GW of solar power on 4 bases in California desert

The US Department of Defense (DoD) could generate 7000 megawatts (MW) of solar energy—roughly equivalent to the output of seven nuclear power plants—on four military bases located in the California desert, according to a study recently released by DoD’s Office of Installations and Environment.

The year-long study, conducted by the consultancy ICF International, looked at seven military bases in California and two in Nevada. It finds that, even though 96% of the surface area of the nine bases is unsuited for solar development because of military use, endangered species and other factors, the solar-compatible area is nevertheless large enough to generate more than 30 times the electricity consumed by the California bases, or about 25% of the renewable energy that the State of California is requiring utilities to use by 2015.

The Department of Defense is seeking to develop solar, wind, geothermal and other distributed energy sources on its bases both to reduce their $4 billion-a-year energy bill and to make them less dependent on the commercial electricity grid. Such on-site energy generation, together with energy storage and so-called smart-microgrid technology, would allow a military base to maintain its critical operations “off-grid” for weeks or months if the grid is disrupted.

The ICF study looks in detail at the seven DoD installations that are located in California’s Mojave and Colorado deserts: Fort Irwin; Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake; the Marine Corps’ Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range; Edwards Air Force Base; Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow; Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms; and Naval Air Facility El Centro. The study also looks at two Air Force bases located in the Nevada desert, Creech and Nellis.

Most of the surface area of the installations consists of undeveloped ranges used for training and other military activities that the study finds are incompatible with solar facilities. In addition, using detailed Geographic Information System data, ICF ruled out large portions of the bases’ developed areas because of the presence of cultural and biological resources, flash flood hazards and other conflicts. For each area that survived the geographic screening process, ICF looked at the technical feasibility of six alternative solar technologies and at the economic viability under private versus military ownership.

The study concludes that 25,000 acres are “suitable” for solar development and another 100,000 acres are “likely” or “questionably” suitable for solar. ICF assumed that 100% of the “suitable” land and 25% of the “likely” or “questionably” suitable land would be developed for solar energy. According to the study, the largest amount of economically viable acreage is found at Edwards Air Force Base (24,327 acres), followed by Fort Irwin (18,728 acres), China Lake (6,777) and Twentynine Palms (553 acres). ICF found little or no economically viable acreage on the other California bases (Barstow, El Centro and Chocolate Mountain) or the two Nevada bases, principally because the military’s use of the land is incompatible with solar development.

Finally, the study finds that private developers can tap the solar potential on these installations with no capital investment requirement from DoD, and that the development could yield the federal government up to $100 million a year in revenue or other benefits such as discounted power.



Sounds like the usual crap when solar figures are given - or rather routinely distorted - to me.
The 25,000 acres definete plus the 25,000 acres which are 25% of probable come to 200 sq kilomentres.
At 1kw nominal/sq metre that is 200GW peak.
However you can't use all of the space, a lot of it goes on access and so on, and then you have effciency to take into account, and capacity which allows for nightime etc.
Efficienfy very optimistically comes to 15%, so that cuts it down to 30Gwe, then capacity is sub 20% at the best of times, so you have around 6GWe before allowing for access roads etc

It boild down to the almost certainty that they are talking about peak power, not actual average output.
At 20% capacity they would be talking abour 1400MWe for a 7GW nominal, which is the output of one large nuclear power station, not 7.

This 'mistake' happens on almost every occassion that renewables are 'assessed' and so clearly amoung to a fixed policy of pulling the wool over the public's eyes.

This is not surprising, as if they gave the true figures and costs renewables are clearly insane almost everywhere.

No doubt Bernie Madoff would have been perfectly happy to tell the public the truth, if that would mean that he still had a viable business.

Renewables are in the same position as Madoff, and come to the same way forward.

Lie and misdirect.


Davemart, it's similar to the way fossil burning plants never include the environmental damage (true cost) in their figures.


It looks to me like they are saying if a private company wants to develop solar, they do not have to buy the land, a public/private partnership can be made that benefits both.


Nope, clearly financial costs do not include environmental ones, and everyone knows that.
The habitual presentation of renewables as so many nuclear power stations worth, when it is peak power not average output, amounts to deliberate and repeated disception and misrepresentation.
To say that this huge array would equal the output of 7 nuclear power stations is a flat-out lie.

Roger Pham

50,000 acres x 4000 M^2/acre = 200,000,000 M^2.
At 60% of this land covered with solar trough collectors, we will have 200,000,000 x .60= 120,000,000 M^2. At 25% solar to electricity efficiency for solar trough thermal power plants, we will have 30,000,000 peak kW (30,000 MW) solar output. With molten salt thermal storage to allow electricity production around the clock, we can expect average power output of solar thermal plant to be around 25% of peak output.

Hence, 30,000 MW peak x 25%= 7,500 MW continous output. Right on the ball with the DOD's estimation

I clearly see no misrepresentation here.


Roger, solar trough collectors may be the more mature design but we can get more than 60% land coverage with multi-point receivers.

CLFR, Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector, arrays can get up to 84%;

and MTSA, Multi Tower Solar Arrays, up all the way up to 90%;


A good project for the solar alternative channels. They will of course have to compete with excess heat effect producing continuous electricity without reliance on daylight - at a COP of 6 or greater.

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