Airports a fine fit for decentralized energy

At a time when governments and airlines around the world have taken the first tentative steps towards an agreement to tackle greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation industry – that’s you and I taking flights to get from A to B – operators of airports around the world have made good progress in controlling their own carbon footprint.

For example, in India, managers at Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport in India are amo Gandhi International Airport ng the latest to see the potential for sourcing much of their electricity needs from green, on-site generation – in this case solar PV. The airport is planning to generate 40% of its electricity needs from a reported 15 MW array, and thus to become the largest solar producer airport in the country. Meanwhile India’s Gandhi International Airport in Delhi expanded its solar PV scheme to 8 MW earlier this year and plans to move this up to 20 MW by 2020.

Indeed, two years ago the Airport Authority of India instituted a solar expansion plan to have at least 50 MW of solar capacity in place, with much of the emphasis on ground-mounted arrays within airport-owned land. Where electricity storage is incorporated, there should be scope for around 500 MW of solar generation at India’s airports.

With their high and round-the-clock electricity loads, airports form fine homes for solar power schemes around the sunnier parts of the world – recent stories cite new schemes being opened at airports in Antigua in the Caribbean and Adelaide in Australia.

But those power – and concomitant thermal – loads also make airports natural hosts for high-efficiency cogeneration and, where the climate demands, trigeneration plants. Germany’s Munich Airport uses both cogeneration and solar PV on-site, and many airports in European cities use sizeable cogeneration or trigen schemes to supply heat, power and, using chillers, cooling to their buildings. Indeed, along with other building types that have both high energy loads and long periods of occupation, cogeneration in airports is relatively mainstream.

The aviation industry takes a lot of flack for its so far unregulated carbon dioxide emissions – aviation was excluded from last year’s Paris agreement on climate change and last week’s agreement to establish a carbon offset scheme for airlines starting in 2021 is only just a beginning. However, aviation’s ground-based operators are ahead of the game.

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