The Department of Defense (DOD) allowed private companies to build green energy projects on federal lands for little or no compensation, according to an audit of the Pentagon’s green energy efforts.
Government Accountability Office (GAO) auditors reviewed 17 green energy projects on DOD land and found 14 of those projects were, “not always clear about the value of the land used and the compensation DOD received for granting such use.”
“Specifically, for 8 projects, DOD received little or no financial compensation for the use of its land, but the documentation did not clearly compare the value for granting use of DOD land to the value of what DOD received for it,” GAO found. “As a result, DOD contributed potentially valuable land—in some cases, over 100 acres—for the development of a project without including this as a cost in project documentation.”
GAO found DOD only charged one green energy developer $1 for an easement at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and for two other projects, the DOD said it, “would be obtaining other benefits without specifying the financial value of those benefits.”
“For the other 5 projects that used access licenses or permits to grant the use of DOD land—which do not require compensation—DOD obtained no financial compensation,” GAO found.
Six projects, “were structured to obtain cash or in-kind payments that DOD believed met this requirement.” But two of these projects “did not provide a clear comparison of these land values and compensation.”
“For example, the documentation for a project at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, included information about the estimated market value of the land but did not clearly explain how the in-kind compensation it received for the land compared with that value,” GAO found.
The Obama administration has been trying to green up the U.S. military’s image by getting bases to use more solar and wind power, and even beefing up the so-called “Great Green Fleet” that runs off of a biofuel mix.
But such efforts have been greeted with skepticism by federal lawmakers and defense experts. GAO has been carefully watching the U.S. military’s green energy efforts and found they haven’t always lived up to what was promised.
In January, GAO reported the military had not set up programs to make sure bases produced as much energy as they consumed — a concept known as “net zero” energy use. The Pentagon has made little to no progress on its “net zero” plans in nearly a decade.
“None of the military departments have established net zero as a funded program,” GAO reported in January. “Service officials told us they believe that fully achieving net zero is unrealistic and ultimately cost prohibitive.”
Now, GAO is looking at the cost-effectiveness of the Pentagon’s ever-growing list of green energy projects.
GAO found that while some of the 17 projects reviewed advanced the military’s energy goals and energy security objective, it was “not reflected in the documentation for the 17 projects.”
DOD says these projects are not only meant to save money, but they should increase the military’s energy security. It’s not clear, however, if that’s actually the case.
Only two green energy projects “would immediately be able to provide electricity to an installation in the event of a grid outage,” according to GAO.
“Five other projects would require additional investment, such as the installation of batteries or other energy storage, before they would be able to deliver electricity during an outage, and project documentation did not always reflect this information,” GAO noted.
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