By Katie Lannan

MediaNews

BOURNE -- Each of the state's six military bases, including Fort Devens and Hanscom Air Force Base, will undergo energy-efficiency audits as part of a new $1.5 million initiative announced Thursday by Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan.

The audit program, administered by the state's Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force, will be the first of its kind nationally.

"Moving forward on these energy audits is a key example of the work the task force first set forth to complete," said Murray, the task force's chairman. "The defense industry and our military bases rely heavily on energy, and it is critical that we develop innovative opportunities to enhance energy efficiency and deliver cost-savings for our bases."

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources will solicit a contractor to conduct a comprehensive review of each base, including assessing the facility's energy use and establishing opportunities for renewable energy installation.

According to the department, the audits are meant to identify strategic opportunities for clean energy, aligning with Department of Defense goals of lowering energy costs and increasing energy security.

"These audits will allow us to move forward with innovative energy projects at our bases, some of the largest energy users in the commonwealth," Sullivan said.

Clean-energy projects to be considered include solar, wind and biomass power, electric or natural gas-fueled vehicles, and microgrids, which would allow a base to generate and distribute power separate from a major utility grid. Microgrids with electricity storage could keep base operations online and secure during power outages.

The project team, composed of Department of Energy Resources staff and the selected consultant, will produce a list of feasible projects with initial cost estimates. The team will be responsible for identifying funding sources, including state and federal tax credits and Department of Defense programs.

Funding for the audit initiative will come from the state's Alternative Compliance Payments spending plan, under which electricity suppliers make payments if they do not have enough renewable energy certificates to fulfill state regulations. The money will come specifically from the 2011 reciepts, which totaled $78,488,558.

The initiative was announced in a press conference at the Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod. Besides that base, audits will occur at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, the Natick Soldier Systems Center, Fort Devens and Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford.

Local military officials said they supported the program.

"We at Fort Devens welcome the opportunity offered by Massachusetts of having an external agency provide an assessment of our energy programs," said Lt. Col. Steven F. Egan, Fort Devens garrison commander.

Hanscom Air Force Base Commander Col. Lester Weilacher said he is looking forward to the partnership with the state.

"The Air Force is always looking at ways to reduce our operating costs, increase energy efficiency and reduce our environmental impact," he said.

Follow Katie Lannan on Twitter @katielannan.