Land for lease: bases turn unused property into revenue, energy.
But, what these plots of land lack in looks, they make up for in value.
"Land is one commodity that is always worth money," said Mark Kinkade, with the Air Force Real Property Agency.
The Air Force is now looking to cash in on this value, using a program called Enhanced Use Lease. How it works is simple: Air Force bases will offer unused plots of land for lease to private industry. These private organizations will pay for the land through either monetary payments or "in-kind" services.
Through this program, the Air Force has identified a potential $5 billion worth of revenue-generating locations and projects.
"This is a lot of money we're talking about here," said Darrin Wray, EUL project manager at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. "But it's less about revenue and more about investment."
EUL investment could benefit the local community, base infrastructure and clean, renewable energy and resources
WHAT IT IS
Enhanced Use Lease isn't new. It's been around in some form or another since the mid-1980s, but it really didn't build up steam until 2008, after the Air Force, along with the rest of the Department of Defense, began facing unexpected demands on its resources. Budget shortfalls, rising fuel prices, the costs of fighting the war on terrorism and restrictions on retiring weapon systems all contributed to these challenges.
In response to these issues, the Air Force began transforming itself to make sure it could continue to accomplish its mission. Part of this transformation was to seriously look at EUL and see if the program could help out.
The Air Force liked what it saw.
"Basically, [unused Air Force land offers' the potential for a lot of revenue and resources," Wray said.
Air Force officials gave the Real Property Agency its orders: "Make it happen."
"And we are," Kinkade said. "Working with bases across the service, AFRPA has already identified numerous project sites and unused land that fit the bill."
Once identified, projects are developed and then shopped around, meaning the jobs are put out for bid to see if any private sector businesses are interested.
If there is interest and a contract is reached, then the project enters the construction phase. From there, it's just a matter of how and when the base gets paid.
"Sometimes it's just a straight lease, where the base receives a monthly payment," Wray said. "Sometimes the base may take a percentage of the revenue earned from the business built on the land."
Agreements also can include a combination of both types of payment. Either way, the base has options. And, either way, the base is generating revenue from what was formerly an unused asset.
"The beauty of it is the bases will not lose these assets," Wray said. "Because these contracts are leases, this means the base still owns the land, and, in many cases the buildings or structures built on them."
Money paid to the bases is put back into their infrastructures and used for things like new gymnasiums or other support facilities. In some cases, the base may receive "in kind" payments, such as the use of renewable energy being generated.
"Basically, it's a win-win for the base and community," Wray said. "The base makes money off of this unused property, the local community gets jobs and private companies get some prime real estate."
WHERE IT IS
Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., is known for many things. It's home to the Thunderbirds, hosts Red Flag exercises every year and is close to one of the country's most famous cities, Las Vegas.
Now, though, it's also known for hosting what is currently the nation's largest solar array. Consisting of 72,000 solar panels, this array produces more than 30 million kilowatts of energy and supplies nearly 25 percent of the total power used by the base.
Four years ago, it didn't exist. Where this giant solar field now sits was just a large, barren piece of land. Nellis looked at its options and turned the unused land into a renewable energy venture that provides jobs to the local community and clean energy to the base.
The base didn't stop there. In cooperation with the city of North Las Vegas, the base now hosts the largest water reclamation facility in the country. It's all natural, too, meaning the facility uses biological matter, rather than chemicals, to clean the wastewater.
The base is receiving more than monetary benefits from this venture.
"Nellis will be able to use the water recycled by this plant," said Ernie Maldonado, a contractor with the company operating the facility. "When the water is treated, it's then sent back to Lake Meade and back into the water supply for the base and surrounding area."
Nellis isn't the only base doing this. Using EUL, Air Force bases are turning unused land into income-generating, and often, energy-creating projects.
Hill is another base receiving EUL benefits. The base currently has several EUL projects in the works, the largest of which is its Falcon Hill business park. This 550-acre park is currently in construction and will feature nearly two million square feet of commercial office space, all on land belonging to the base. Other projects include producing steam energy from a local waste plant, building a wind farm on the base's Little Mountain Annex and a 100-acre solar power field.
Edwards AFB, Calif., is in the process of building what will be the largest solar field in the country.
Other places, like the Air Force Academy and Kirtland, Eglin, Wright-Patterson and Luke Air Force bases, are also in the process of developing EUL projects.
"These projects aren't just about money," Wray said. "They create local jobs and allow bases to invest in long-term energy initiatives."
At its core, that's what the EUL program is all about: Creating revenue, investing in the local community and providing clean energy and resources along the way.
"It's just another example of the Air Force being good stewards of the environment and a good neighbor to its communities," Wray said.
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|Date:||Sep 1, 2011|
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