Solar Energy Taking Over Airports in the US

published Oct 07, 2014
2 min read

US Airports use solar energy to reduce costs and save the environment.


According to the Airport Cooperative Research Program, the operational costs of running the airports in the USA are really high and many of them are losing money every year. ACRP also points out that airports are one of the largest public energy user in the country and that energy expenses are often the largest operational spending for airports, second only to personnel.

Reducing electricity usage is one way to lower energy costs. This is why many airports are turning to solar energy for help. Once the installations costs are overcome, solar panels basically provide free electricity. However, it is not just the monetary benefits that drives the uptake of solar energy, since the environmental benefits associated with the use of solar energy are attractive to the airports as well. Here are some of the recent airport solar projects in the US.

Read more: Transparent Solar Panels

Denver International Airport

The first solar system was installed way back in 2008. Another one followed in 2009, then another in 2011 and the fourth solar power system has started operations in early  2014. This brings the airport’s solar capacity to almost 43,000 solar panels, generating up to 10MW of power. The fourth solar system can produce up to 2 MW, which is enough to power 2600 average households per year.

The generated electricity will be used to power the Fire Fighting Training Academy, providing 100 percent of its electricity needs. The solar system will also reduce the greenhouse gas emissions with almost 11 500 tons every year. Kim Day, the aviation manager, said that they are adopting renewable energy solutions not only because they are beneficial to the environments, but also financially viable.

Minneapolis St Paul International Airport

The biggest solar power project in the state of Minnesota will be at the MSP International airport. The project is expected to be operation by the end of 2015. The airport announced that the project would cost around $25 million and the panels will be place on top of parking ramps at the main terminal. The solar panels will generate up to 2 MW of power, enough to provide 20 percent of the electricity needed by the Airport.

Moreover, in addition to the solar project, four electric vehicle charging stations will be added at the airport, making the total number eight.

This project shows that the state of Minnesota is committed to their clean energy policy. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), this solar project will reduce the carbon footprint of the airport, create new jobs (estimated 2500 new jobs) and provide significant savings to the airport. With this solar project, the State of Minnesota shows that saving the environment, saving money and creating new jobs, are not mutually exclusive.

Indianapolis International Airport

After the construction of the first solar farm in 2013, the airport will host another solar project which will most probably be operational by the end of 2014. The cost is expected to be between $20-25 millions and will consist of almost 38,000 solar panels. The solar system will have a tracking device, which will allow the panels to track the sun. As a result, this may increase the solar panel efficiency by up to 15 percent.

The first solar farm has 44,000 solar panels and combined with the second one, it will become the largest airport solar farm, capable of powering 3200 households. The solar farm will help the airport make use of unutilized land, reduce its carbon footprint and make huge savings on electricity.

According to the FAA, through its Voluntary Airport Low Emission program, airports have already reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 370 tons per year, which is the same as removing 25,000 cars. Lets not forget about another effect that those those huge solar farms at airports may have: individuals noticing them may start thinking about using solar energy themselves.

Read more: UK’s First Floating Solar Panel Project