The U.S. Army has ramped up efforts to power its domestic bases with renewable energy sources, issuing a draft request for proposals to enter into power purchase agreements totaling $7 billion with local utilities over the next 30 years. A major component of a goal to use 25% renewable energy in the U.S. by 2025, the program would be the largest of its kind the Army has ever executed.

The Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, Ala., says the military itself is not entering the utility business but seeks to purchase power generated from plants built on or near military installations in the U.S. and its territories. The plan could be a boon for the construction market in generating large-scale renewable energy projects across the country.

"[The Army] has land all over the place in prime [renewable] resource areas. This is very good news for the renewables market," says Ryan Pletka, a renewable energy market project manager for Black & Veatch.

Officials at the Huntsville center say the program is still in its early stages. No contracts will be awarded from the draft RFP, which expires on March 24. They are seeking only comments and suggestions. Once the final RFP is issued, projects will likely take about a year to plan and up to two years to build, depending on the market.

"The speed of the rollout really depends on economics," says Stan Lee, the center's energy division chief. "The [Energy Initiatives Task Force] at the Pentagon is already going through the beginning process of developing projects, issuing the permits and coordinating with local facilities as we go through this acquisition process."

The hope is that, by the time the first contracts are awarded in 2013, there already will be several projects that are shovel-ready, according to Lee.

"Ideally, we'll then be able to consistently role more projects out as we head in to 2014, then 2015 and so on," Lee says. "But that all depends on what kind of proposals we're receiving at those times in terms of cost per kilowatt hour."