Fact Check: Military says wind farms strengthen, not hinder, national security

Recently, several media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and Forbes.com, have erroneously reported on wind farms impacting military bases.  The reality couldn’t be further from the truth—wind bolsters our national security be creating more of our energy right here at home.

Here are the facts.

The Department of Defense has a review process that works

Under federal law, the Department of Defense (DoD) must review any wind farms proposed near military bases. Local base commanders also have ample opportunity to weigh in, and wind farm developers work closely with the DoD to mitigate any potential impacts that could arise.

What have been the results of this process?

No military base operations or trainings have ever been harmed by a wind farm. In the one instance where a wind developer could not mitigate potential effects, and therefore the DoD objected, the company stopped development and moved on.

In recent weeks, the Amazon wind farm in North Carolina has been at the center of attention concerning this issue. But the Navy itself has said it expects the project will not have a negative impact.

Lt. Chika Onyekanne, a U.S. Navy spokesperson, said federal law already requires the Navy “to minimize the potential impacts of renewable energy projects on military missions.” Onyekanne said the Navy has studied the effects of wind turbines on its ROTHR radar system since 2011, “and does not expect the Amazon wind farm to impact the ROTHR’s support of U.S. Southern Command.”

“When potential mission compatibility issues are identified, the (military departments) and the applicants work together to identify reasonable and affordable mitigation options to allay DoD’s concerns,” the DoD has said.

The owner of the newly-constructed Amazon project coordinated with the DoD for several years to ensure trouble-free operations. In running extensive technical analysis with Navy scientists, the project’s owner reduced the wind farm’s size and shifted the placement of turbines. The Navy then confirmed the wind farm and nearby base could co-exist without problems.

Wind farms boost local economies and America’s vets

The U.S. wind industry is a major job-creator for the men and women serving our country. Its workforce hires veterans at a rate 50 percent above the national average according to the Department of Energy, offering well-paying jobs for service men and women transitioning out of active duty. Overall, more than 100,000 Americans have wind power jobs today, and another 130,000 positions could be added over the next four years.

Likewise, wind farms bring huge economic development to communities that host them. They’re often the area’s largest taxpayers, as is the case for the North Carolina project. This adds revenue to improve schools, fix roads and buy new ambulances, among many other services. And during the wind farm construction phase, money pours into local economies, because hundreds of construction workers stay in hotels, eat at restaurants, and hire local contractors, among many other activities.

Landowners also benefit by from lease payments they get for hosting wind turbines, which top $222 million every year. This offers family farmers a stable income source they can count of when commodity prices fluctuate or bad weather leads to a poor harvest.

Unnecessary and arbitrary regulation, such as exclusion zones, which the DoD itself labels “unhelpful,” jeopardizes all of these gains and infringes on private property rights.

The DoD says renewables enhance mission readiness, national security

The DoD has a 25 percent by 2025 renewable energy standard in place, and wind power can help it affordably hit that target. Here’s the DoD’s rationale for setting that goal:

“The military’s shift toward renewable energy is not just a political directive but also an operational imperative,” the DoD says on its website. “Improvements toward energy alternatives can increase warfighter efficiency, enhance energy security and cut installation and operational energy costs.”

In fact, many wind projects today sit near bases without issue. For example, wind turbines have been generating electricity near the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota since 2009, and near the Travis Air Force Base in California for over a decade.

The military has even built wind turbines on some of its sites, like the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming and the Cape Cod Air Force Base in Massachusetts.

Warren’s wind turbines provide about 20 percent of the base’s electricity, and they’ll save the facility an estimated $3 million over their lifespan. Cape Cod uses its wind turbines to power its Pave PAWS radar system, a massive energy user that tracks submarine ballistic missiles and satellites. The wind turbines save the base $1 million every year, or 50 percent of its electricity bill.

The DoD knows how to protect its bases and ensure mission readiness. It has advocated for renewable energy for a number of years as a pivotal tool to achieve these goals. The armed services are our national security experts. If they say something isn’t a threat, and identify a tool they need to keep the U.S. secure, we should take them at their word.

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