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Pittsburgh Begins Renewable Resource Push

View outside of Pittsburgh International Airport (Photo: Pittsburgh Airport)

As a part of the push towards sustainability, the largest airport in western Pennsylvania is getting approval to move into greener pastures. The airport has become the latest airport to begin construction of a solar farm to move the airport towards an electric supply built on renewable resources. Pittsburgh has a planned 9,390 solar panels that will be installed in an airport’s microgrid.

In an alternative method to powering the airport, the microgrid will have the potential to power 13,000 residential homes along the western side of the Steel City. The plan is to leave the microgrid connected to the city, but save the additional power source for the needs of emergency power should something happen to the main powerplants in town. The installation will take less than 8 months, with a planned starting date for the grid occurring in the summer of 2021.

Operated and constructed by IMG Energy Solutions, the solar farm will be located north of the airport alongside Interstate 376. The Pittsburgh based firm has a decade’s worth of experience working locally with clean renewable resources as well as other energy resources. IMG Energy most notably works with natural gas, which is in abundance along the shale beds of western Pennsylvania.

The airport’s plan received the green light from the Department of Energy on January 7th and outlining and leveling work began on the field just two days later. The powerplant will also come with a secondary component of five generators which will be powered by natural gas. These fuel generators will be sourced from wells on-site and built by CNX Resources.

Another Pittsburgh based firm, CNX Resources has over 150 year’s worth of experience in Marcellus and Utica shale based in the Appalachian Mountains. Seeing how Pittsburgh is situated among a shale deposit, the airport can tap directly into the natural gas reserves well below the airport. The natural gas deposits will power the public structures of the airport, specifically the terminals.

“Part of our mission is to be a world leader in aviation innovation and this project is about powering airports into the future. This project will bring power resiliency and redundancy to enhance safety and ensure continued operations for the traveling public,” said Pittsburgh International Airport CEO Christina Cassotis.

Pittsburgh joins a long list of airports making the switch to solar power, an event that has taken off in the last few years. The first US airport to make the switch to sustainable energy inside the country was Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport in Tennessee who completed its 12-acre, 2.64-megawatt solar farm in 2019. To a lesser extent, airports like Honolulu, Orlando, Indianapolis and Denver have planned or completed some solar farms to help switch their electricity from nonrenewable to renewable resources.

Ian McMurtry


  • Ian McMurtry

    Although Ian McMurtry was never originally an avgeek, he did enjoy watching US Airways aircraft across western Pennsylvania in the early 2000s. He lived along the Pennsylvania Railroad and took a liking to trains but a change of scenery in the mid-2000s saw him shift more of an interest into aviation. He would eventually express this passion by taking flying lessons in mid-Missouri and joining AirlineGeeks in 2013. Now living in Wichita, Kansas, Ian is in college majoring in aerospace engineering and minoring in business administration at Wichita State University.

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