Posts Tagged ‘solar energy’

Observations from a Panel at the ACC/AAAE Design and Construction Conference in Denver

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

by Stephen Barrett

I had the pleasure of participating in a panel on how airports apply unique engineering techniques to take advantage of available resources. I started off the panel discussion by presenting information on ACRP 02-56, Developing the Airport Business Case for Renewable Energy where I described how the research will produce a ranking system which quantifies the economic, self-sustainability, and environmental benefits of renewable energy projects. These benefits include stabilizing long-term electricity costs, investing in a modernized electricity generation and distribution network to ensure reliability and resiliency, and advancing environmental initiatives to open up permitting for future development. Traci Holton, Manager of Design at the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, followed up with a discussion of a variety of examples from Nashville Airport (BNA) including solar planning (which I am helping them with – thanks for the kudos Traci), to asphalt and rock reuse, to converting mulch produced through vegetation management activities into improving site stabilization and minimizing runoff. Traci also described their Geothermal Project which will utilize the constant water temperature from a large on-site quarry for heating and cooling resulting in savings to the airport from avoided natural gas use and potable water previously purchased for boiler make-up and on-site irrigation. The project is currently out-to-bid with a design-build format and requiring a minimum payback period. The last speaker was Dale Stubbs, Associate Vice President for AECOM in Atlanta, who talked about Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson’s (ATL) Green Acres Recycling Facility that is presently under development. The unique facility will be built, owned and operated by a third party contractor on 39-acres of airport property where all the airport’s waste will be delivered, sorted and managed including the use of compost for growing food that will be sold back to concessionaires. Each of these projects shows how airports can be leaders in developing innovative approaches to areas such as energy consumption and waste management that can produce a financial benefit through the efficient use of available resources.

ACRP Releases HMMH-authored Report on Energy Projects and Airports and Airspace

Friday, April 25th, 2014

by Stephen Barrett

HMMH is pleased to inform clients and colleagues of the official release of Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Report 108 “Energy Technologies Compatibility with Airports and Airspace.” This report is the first in a series of ACRP Reports on energy and airports that are expected for release in the next year. The HMMH-authored report reviews the aviation industry’s experience with a variety of energy technologies including solar, wind, oil and gas drilling, and traditional electricity generation and transmission, and provides guidance for future projects to avoid impacts on airports and airspace. The report is timely given the country’s focus on domestic energy production to serve economic and national security interests and to diversify energy generation sources toward cleaner fuels, including renewables. The guidance will also help airports as they consider opportunities to lease out underutilized non-aeronautical property for energy production.

ACRP Report 108

I’m All for Alternative Energy, But Will it Impact My Airport?

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

by Steve Barrett

HMMH provides answers in ACRP Report.

Growing demand for electricity and the transition to new technologies is pushing energy projects in new geographical areas.  Proposals for wind farms and solar plants are getting the attention of  aviation professionals who see projects proposed near their airports and are concerned that the projects will impact pilot safety and airport operations.  To gather more information on the pertinent issues, the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) funded a Synthesis Report, and I was selected as the Principal Investigator for the study.  The Report, Investigating Safety Impacts of Energy Technologies on Airports and Aviation, was released by the ACRP on October 15.

The study looks into the potential impacts of wind farms, solar panels and concentrated solar power plants, and traditional natural gas plants on airports and aviation.  Types of impacts evaluated include solar glare, radar interference, thermal plumes from emission stacks, and penetration of structures into airspace.  The report reviews specific project proposals including the proposed Shepherd Flats Wind Farm in Oregon’s Columbia River Valley and the Blythe Concentrated Solar Plant in the desert of Southeastern California. 

The Synthesis Report, combined with the Solar Guide prepared by HMMH and released by the FAA in November 2010, provides a substantial amount of information on the subject of alternative energy and airports.  ACRP has announced a follow-up Project to develop a Guidebook for energy and aviation professionals that will contain more detailed information including new analyses of specific projects.  HMMH, as a leader in the field of alternative energy and airports, will continue to track these developments closely.

Investigating Safety Impacts of Energy Technologies on Airports and Aviation

Let the sun shine!

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

by Phil DeVita

Recently I installed a photovoltaic (PV) solar system on the roof of my house to generate electricity.  Some of you may be thinking “I have always thought of putting in a solar system but the costs seemed too high.”  I had similar reservations until I recently read an article in the Boston Globe about a west coast solar company (SunRun) which was offering to install and operate solar residential PV systems for minimal money down.  What’s the catch?  You have to buy the power generated by the system from SunRun at a fixed price over an 18-year period.  I thought this was an interesting concept, but I was still skeptical and had a lot of questions.

First, we should step back and see how this all came about.  When I bought my house many years ago I knew there was good potential for solar, evidenced by the annual baking of my backyard.  The main roof is oriented to the south with minimal shading during the late morning and afternoon (ideal solar production hours).   I thought this would probably be a great place for a solar PV system.   I researched a couple of systems but the price was a little too high.  Other priorities took precedent, so I put the idea on the backburner for a few years until I came across this article on SunRun.

After reading the article, I was intrigued and made an appointment with Alteris Renewables (the local representative for SunRun).  Alteris came out to my house and looked at the orientation and pitch of my roof, surface area, solar resource, shade, etc. and confirmed my initials thoughts that my roof would be an ideal candidate for solar.  Alteris took my last couple of electric bills and made some calculations to determine the adequate size of my system (kW) which would determine the number and size of the panels.  The results were computed on the spot and out popped a 5.5 kW energy plant, enough to power approximately 80% of my electricity needs.  This is great you say, but what about the price?   With SunRun, you have the option to purchase the system out right or with a little money down, SunRun will install and operate the system and the homeowner purchases the electricity at a set price over an 18 year period (also known as a power purchase agreement).  I was familiar with the PPA option through our research developing the FAA Solar Guide; however, I had not heard the concept applied to residential applications.  This seemed to be a much more affordable option; however, by not owning the system, I would not reap the total benefits (i.e. free electricity and RECs).   I sat down with both options and laid out the pros and cons of each.

Owning the system

 Pros

  • You get free electricity (i.e. no PPA) and net metering benefits (i.e. spinning the meter backwards for electricity generated but not used);
  • Tax credits available from the Federal Government along with state incentives to subsidize the costs; and
  • Additional revenue potential from generating renewable energy credits (RECs) produced by the system which can be sold on the trading market.

Cons

  • You own the system.  Responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the system;
  • The inverter alone can cost $5K to $10K and is good for about 10 years; and
  • High investment cost.

Leasing the System

Pros

  • 3rd Party is responsible for the operation and maintance of the system;
  • Guaranteed production from SunRun and stable electricity costs each year;
  • Lower investment costs.

Cons

  • Do not get credit for the RECs;
  • 18 year PPA commitment.

I did some additional research and carefully weighed each option and decided to pull the trigger on the PPA plan.  It was an attractive plan for me where I would not have to worry about the maintenance of the system (peace of mind), minimal investment upfront, guaranteed production, fixed cost for my electricity (lower than what I was currently paying), and still have the net metering capability. 

Alteris ordered all the equipment and the system was installed over a two day period.  My system consists of 30 panels which are tied together and run to an inverter in my basement which is then tied to my utility meter.

Having the system has been a great learning tool for my kids to teach them about renewable energy and climate change.  It is also a talking point in the neighborhood where people come up to me and ask about my system and how it’s operating.  Many of my neighbors say, “Hey I like your system, I want to get solar panels for my house”.  Unfortunately, solar is not for everyone.  You need to have good southern exposure and unimpeded sun during the peak hours for it to work efficiently.

My system has been operating for about 7 months and to date I have generated over 3,576 kilowatt hours of electricity, equivalent to operating a television for 25,007 hours, the energy to power 26 computers for one year, or the energy to power 99 homes for one day. 

Even though I do not care for the summer heat, I do realize that when it’s hot and sticky outside, that hot summer sun is helping to offset my utility bill and reduce GHG emissions, which are good things.

So let the sun shine!

It’s Not a Mirage – It’s a Solar Project at an Airport

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

by Steve Barrett

A little less than a year ago, I joined the HMMH team to provide clean energy services to existing clients and expand services in new areas.  Given HMMH’s long-standing and strong relationships in the aviation community, a key element of the plan was finding a way to marry aviation and energy; we thought the best prospects were in solar.  With solar technology expanding in markets throughout the world and public policy incentives increasing under the Obama Administration combined with Airports’ perfect blend of high electricity consumption and unobstructed southern exposures for capturing sunlight, our thinking seemed cogent.  But other than some knowledge of what Denver had done at the Airport’s entrance road at the Democratic Convention in 2008, we weren’t sure if we were seeing a clear future for solar at airports or just a mirage in the distance.

Now I am working with the FAA to write a Solar Guidance Document for Airports that, in part, reviews existing solar projects and provides lessons learned on what has made these projects successful and how they might be replicated by others.  Phil DeVita and I have had the opportunity to meet with five airports (with a sixth coming up) to touch the panels, hear them rotate, and meet the people who championed the projects and continue monitoring their progress.  We have collected information on siting decisions, economics, regulatory process, and operational experience.  We have gathered data to dispel myths and identified steps that were critical to success.  The paths taken have not been the same, but the results have been.  All projects have been an unequivocal success for the Airports providing cost-effective electricity and positive community relations while remaining compatible with the Airports fundamental mission. Here is a bit of what I saw (and heard).

Denver is the leader of the solar-airport movement with two projects built and operating, and a third under development.  Denver has all of the elements that make solar a “no-brainer”: cheap land, state solar incentives, a strong political commitment from the City, and lots of sun.  Each project has delivered cheaper and cheaper electricity while giving the airport deserved recognition as a leader in the field.  There is no reason Denver won’t continue to build solar projects over the next 10 years.  And despite the installation of almost 17,000 solar panels on airport property, there have been no complaints about glare.

 

Denver International Airport

Denver International Airport

The City of Albuquerque sits in the gold zone for solar energy and has taken a leadership position in the Southwest, including the installation of panels at the Airport.  Its first project, located on an existing car parking structure, is relatively small but it has recently received partial funding from the FAA to expand that system four-fold.  This project will put more panels on four more structures.  Without the land Denver has, the near-term goal at Albuquerque will be to fill up the remaining seven parking structures and generate a substantial amount of on-site electricity from the sun.

The Golden State has been the hub of the US solar industry and many of the major airports have seized the opportunity of sun and state incentives to build projects.

San Francisco International responded to a request sent out by the City to host solar panels.  It would be a good deal for the host – receive solar electricity for the cost of the typical customer rate paid for other electricity sources.  SFO had a new terminal with a flat roof-top tailored made for solar.  The location, being highly visible from the terminal train, also would demonstrate the Airport and City’s commitment to an alternative energy future.  With that project constructed in 2007, the City utility now wants to build a second project on the rental car parking facility and the initial design is underway with construction planned for the fall.

San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport

Anthony Kekeluwela, a veteran engineer with the Port of Oakland, started talking about a solar facility for the airport in 2005.  His approach was a bit different from the others – why not build solar along the Airports runways in lands that can’t be used for other purposes.  The logic made sense – solar is physically low in profile and can be placed close to Part 77 imaginary surfaces without physically impeding airspace.  He worked with a solar developer who leased the land, built the project, and sells electricity to the Airport.  Today it operates with minimal maintenance and maximum benefit.  And is a working example of a solar system built near a runway causing no impacts.

Oakland International Airport

Oakland International Airport

Fresno’s success story is just as remarkable.  It decided that the Runway Approach Zone, a large area subject to high noise levels from arriving and departing aircraft, was the perfect location for a large solar array.  Because no human occupied land uses could occur in the runway approach zone, airport personnel decided that solar panels would go there.  Fresno worked with the FAA to get the project approved.  Nearly two years after its construction, there have been zero complaints about its placement and Fresno would like to construct a second project.  By the way, the solar facility provides approximately 60% of the annual electricity demand of the airport.

While not all of these projects have been simple, the economic and public relations payback have been substantial.  And all of the airports that we spoke with said they would build another project if they could line up the same economic deal.  Because energy is a secondary purpose, most have not put the time in to construct a follow-on project.  Having this group of projects built and operating, does demonstrate solar at airports is more than a mirage – its good business.