Case Study

Airports turn on the power of the sun

Environmental Infrastructure

In October 2014 Rarotonga Airport in the Cook Islands is due to turn on its $3.3 million solar-array power station. The 3,800 panels covering just over 10,000 square meters will generate nearly a megawatt of power, which will provide about 6% of Rarotonga city’s annual electricity generation needs.

Although airports have been using solar power for years to power lamps and lights around the airfield this is one of the growing number of projects where airport solar power is being used to help meet energy requirements in the local community.

CIAL Infrastructure, a subsidiary of the Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) in India, is developing a one megawatt solar power station near Kochi airport as part of a wider plan to diversify into energy generation to supply electricity to fast-growing local towns and cities.

Meanwhile US airports are working with solar power developers to cut their energy costs and lower their carbon footprint. San Diego International Airport has struck a 20-year deal to provide its two main terminals with solar power and save at least $3 million in electricity costs in the process, according to the airport. San Diego airport's first solar array should produce enough power to offset 10% to 13% of energy needs at the two main terminals.

And by the end of 2014 Denver International Airport is due to bring its fourth solar power generation scheme on line, Solar IV, capable of generating up to two megawatts of power, enough power for more than 750 typical Denver homes, according to the airport. The power generated will be used to power the Denver Fire Department’s Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) Training Academy while the excess will be sold to the airport by the system’s private developers, at a tariff expected to be much lower than conventional supplies.

But the world leader in airport solar power generation is probably Australia. Adelaide Airport began using solar panels on the roof of its Terminal One back in 2008 to cut energy costs and reduce emissions, which have fallen by 160 tonnes a year as a result, says the airport. Alice Springs Airport’s Solar Power Station opened in September 2010 now supplies about 28% of the airport’s energy needs, reducing the airport’s carbon emissions by about 470 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.