Construction of an offshore wind turbine in England. Credit: UK Dept. of Energy and Climate Change

A retired lieutenant general writes that the U.S. military already has a proven system for assessing energy developments near its operations.

Lt. Gen. John Castellaw

I spent nearly ten of my 36 years in the Marine Corps flying over eastern North Carolina from the Marine air stations at New River and Cherry Point. It was my responsibility as a squadron commander, and later, as a wing commander, to prepare and deploy combat ready forces, able to defend our nation, to locations all over the world. It is from this perspective that I’ve been following the discussion about how best to balance wind energy development and military operations in North Carolina.

There is no question we must protect the capability provided in North Carolina to prepare our military for a wide range of combat operations. Nothing is more important to me than ensuring that our military has the training airspace and ranges to safely and effectively prepare for the critical national security missions that we ask them to be prepared to execute. That is the reason the Department of Defense created the Siting Clearinghouse, to review proposed energy projects, including wind projects, to make sure that they are compatible with military operations.

Federal law mandates a process for wind developers to submit projects for Clearinghouse review at least a full year prior to construction. The Clearinghouse must also consider input from the state during the review. And recent changes to the law require that local military installations be consulted in the process of clearing the proposed developments.

The new law also strengthens Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s authority to object to a proposed project if it is determined that it presents an unacceptable risk to national security. Having served with Jim Mattis all my 36 years, I know that he is not at all reluctant to use that authority to preserve our military readiness.

Over the past five years, the Clearinghouse has reviewed more than 3,200 proposed wind developments. Most were found not to impact military operations. In the cases where a potential adverse impact was identified, the Clearinghouse has acted to protect the military mission by negotiating agreements with developers to make the planned development compatible with military operations.

The Clearinghouse process is rigorous, it works, and I don’t know of a wind project that has ever been built over DoD’s objection. We also need to keep in mind that energy security is an important element of our overall national security. Development of wind power increases our energy independence, contributes to our economic vitality, and generates jobs for the local community.

The bottom line is the military already has an effective, non-political, non-emotional, just-the-facts, well-established process for making sure that wind and other energy projects are compatible with operations and promote our national security. Imposing blanket restrictions on wind development in the name of national security can make us more insecure. As is often said: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”.

Lt. Gen. John Castellaw USMC (Retired) lives on his family farm near Crockett Mills, Tennessee. He remains involved in national security issues, serves on several boards, and advocates for a strong national defense.