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Project Experience: Chicago-Rockford International Airport Solar PV Project Glare Analysis, Illinois

The Challenge

Rockford Solar Partners (RSP) is working with the Chicago-Rockford International Airport on a public-private project to develop a solar photovoltaic facility on airport land. The partners have selected a preferred location, approximately 69 acres of land just outside of the Runway Protection Zone of one of its primary runways. As part of the FAA approval of the project and the land lease, RSP needed to prepare a Form 7460 Airspace Safety Analysis to evaluate potential impacts to aviation including visual impairment from solar reflectivity and disruption of radar navigation systems.

The Strategy

RSP hired HMMH to conduct an analysis of the potential impacts of solar reflectivity and radar disruption using its experience with FAA policies and guidance provided in the HMMH co-authored report “Technical Guidance on Selected Solar Technologies at Airports.” HMMH prepared a qualitative analysis of these potential impacts based on the specific elements of the proposal and status of knowledge on the issues.

The Solution

The analysis showed that based on the location of the solar facility relative to sensitive receptors including the air traffic control tower and departing and arriving aircraft that solar glare would not cause an impact. We also reviewed the location of the air surveillance radar and elements of the instrument landing system to determine if there might be a physical disruption in communication radio signals. We discussed the location of the solar facility relative to that infrastructure with the on-site FAA radar representative. Based on that information, we concluded that radar disruption impacts will not occur. RSP provided our findings to the FAA and is proceeding with the leasing program and project development.