By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Defense Department joined the National Resources Defense Council to roll out a new mapping tool designed to help steer renewable energy development efforts to locations where they won’t interfere with military activities or environmentally sensitive areas.
The new Renewable Energy and Defense Database represents “a quantum leap” over previous planning tools, Frank C. DiGiovanni, director of training readiness and strategy in the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Readiness, told American Forces Press Service.
Developers can go into the “READ Database” and enter geographic coordinates of their projects early in the planning process, DiGiovanni explained.
The site uses geospatial data from open sources to show if those locations conflict with Defense Department bases, flight training routes, testing and training ranges and other defense activities, he said. It also identifies sites where projects such as wind turbines could interfere with technical radar systems.
In addition, the database shows environmentally sensitive areas and congressionally designated wilderness, critical environment areas, national monuments and areas without roads.
The database incorporates information from the Federal Aviation Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Park Service and other sources to give developers a planning picture not previously available.
“This is, for the first time, a really good, comprehensive look at all these different intersecting interests,” DiGiovanni said. “With this tool, a developer can greatly minimize the chance that they will have some compatibility issues with DOD or from an environmental perspective.”
David Belote, executive director of the DOD Siting Clearinghouse, stood up to provide developers a fast, comprehensive process for getting information about project sites near DOD activities, called the new database a state-of-the-art example of public-private partnering for renewable energy siting.
“NRDC 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,” he said.
DiGiovanni praised Dr. Matthew McKenzie, an NRDC scientist who devoted six months of full-time effort to build the tool.
“This was a very labor-intensive, very time-consuming project on the part of NRDC, and at absolutely no cost to the Department of Defense,” DiGiovanni said.
The DOD-NRDC partnership allowed both organizations to work together toward a common goal of promoting renewable energy, he said.
“This is a good marriage, because both of us had missions where we wanted to help the renewable energy industry move forward,” DiGiovanni said. “But we wanted to do it in a way where it complemented both of our missions: NRDC’s, from an environment perspective, and DOD’s, with its mission focus and environmental stewardship respect.”
Defense leaders have called U.S. energy dependence a national security challenge and emphasized the need for the United States to become less dependent on imported fossil fuels.
The READ database is available through the NRDC website.