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Pittsburgh International Airport Sees Great Benefits Just One Year After Going Live With Microgrid

It’s been one year since Pittsburgh International Airport installed a first-of-its-kind microgrid, becoming the first airport to ever run completely on natural gas and solar energy.

Since going live, the airport has not only seen great environmental impacts but substantial economic benefits as well, saving the airport upwards of $1 million in energy costs alone. The airport isn’t the only entity benefiting from the microgrid, as the surrounding campus is powered by the grid as well.

The airport was able to accomplish this through the addition of 9,360 solar panels and five natural gas-fired generators that sit on approximately eight acres of the airport’s property. The airport’s solar panels, combined with the generators, produce more than 20 megawatts of electricity, 43 percent more megawatts than the 14 megawatts needed during peak demand. The power generated from the microgrid can supply power to the airport’s airfield, terminal buildings, Hyatt Hotel and the gas station Sunoco.

“We’ve lowered our energy costs, we’ve lowered our carbon output and we have guaranteed ourselves resiliency and redundancy,” stated Christina Cassotis, CEO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority. “That’s really important to an airport.”

With its current grid, the airport will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 8.2 million pounds per year, a significant impact for an industry that is under constant scrutiny for generating the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. Airports worldwide are contributing to the goal by utilizing more sustainable energy options such as solar, wind, biomass, hydro and geothermal, all solutions contributing to the industry-wide goal of cutting carbon emissions in half by the year 2050

“We are really proud of the microgrid and we see this as one example of the work we are doing in sustainability,” stated Cassotis in a press release. “It’s really led to a reconsideration by the industry of what’s possible.”

“We all need aviation and a lot of us want it to be more sustainable, so we want to be at the forefront of making that happen and we are doing it right here.”

Room For Growth

With the first anniversary being this month (July), the airport has seen energy cost savings of $1 million. As a result of the great success, the airport already looks to add to the microgrid, further increasing cost savings and its environmental impact. The airport is considering doubling the number of solar panels on site, which would bring the total to 18,720 panels.

The microgrid isn’t the only sustainable initiative of the airport, it extends beyond this. The airport is currently working on alternative fuel strategies, repopulating the communities honeybee population, and completing the Terminal Modernization Program – A program by Allegheny County Airport Authority that’s designed to make Pittsburgh International Airport the “smartest” airport in the world by implementing technology provided through an agreement with Carnegie Mellon University.

“We are looking at using any and all materials in our new terminal that come out of, for example, ripping up the ramp and crushing the concrete – that will be the base layer of our roadway system,” stated Cassotis.

Pittsburgh International’s new microgrid is as beneficial as it is impressive. It is a step in the right direction for the community and industry as a whole and should serve as an excellent example for the industry going forward.

Author

  • Chase Hagl grew up in Twin Falls, Idaho. His love and passion for Aviation landed him in Orem, Utah where he obtained a B.S. in Aviation Management with a minor in Business Management from Utah Valley University. Chase currently works as a flight attendant in Charleston, SC and is also the primary Inflight ASAP ERC representative for startup airline, Breeze Airways. His experience in the aviation industry spans back four years, working in areas including agriculture application, customer service, maintenance, and flight ops. In his free time, Chase enjoys road biking, astronomy, and flying.

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