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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Airport Renewable Energy Projects Inventory and Case Examples. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25942.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Airport Renewable Energy Projects Inventory and Case Examples. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25942.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Airport Renewable Energy Projects Inventory and Case Examples. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25942.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Airport Renewable Energy Projects Inventory and Case Examples. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25942.
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1 Renewable energy—that which is naturally replenished by the sun, wind, rivers, and oceans, as well as geothermal sources in the ground—represents an increasingly feasible and advantageous power source. As concerns about global climate change grow, the United Nations predicts that 70% to 85% of the world’s electricity demand must come from renew- able energy sources to meet the target for capping temperature rise by 1.5°C by 2050 (Masson-Delmotte et al., 2018). With improved technologies and expanding markets, renewable energy offers a cost-effective and sustainable option to help meet society’s increasing demand for power. Evidence of the growing role of renewable energy is apparent across the landscape. Solar panels and wind turbines can be seen working to provide power in densely populated cities and suburbs, as well as in rural areas of farmland and open country. This visible renewable energy generation produces carbon-free electricity directly to buildings nearby, and also supplies power directly into the expansive electric grid. Other technologies, such as geothermal, biomass, and advanced hydropower, may be less apparent but are no less significant in contributing to a broad movement to augment the overall power-generation infrastructure. Airports, with their open lands, numerous buildings and structures, and high energy needs, are progressively becoming innovative and leading participants in the generation and use of renewable energy. In recognition of the role that airports play in renewable energy development, the Airport Cooperative Research Program has overseen studies on siting, planning, and financing renewable energy technologies for the past decade. With an initial focus on revenue (Kramer, 2010), cost savings (Molar, 2011), and safety and compatibility (Barrett and DeVita, 2011), these publications, along with numerous sub- sequent reports, have provided the aviation industry with guidelines on how renewable energy initiatives can be integrated into the airport environment. ACRP Synthesis 110: Airport Renewable Energy Projects Inventory and Case Examples encapsulates the scope of renewable energy projects existing at U.S. airports through the end of 2019, and is intended to present the current state of practice as a seminal reference for other airports. The objective of the following research is twofold: to present a summary of airport renewable energy activities to date, and to examine the factors that contribute to successful renewable energy development at airports. The report uses two primary data sources: (1) a comprehensive inventory of U.S. airports that have developed renewable energy projects, their typology, and their capacity, and (2) case examples that further identify drivers, financial mechanisms, and lessons learned to serve as models for other airports interested in pursuing similar projects. The audience for this report is airport management, including energy managers, airport planners, and operations staff. The report may also serve S U M M A R Y Airport Renewable Energy Projects Inventory and Case Examples

2 Airport Renewable Energy Projects Inventory and Case Examples as a useful resource for other local stakeholders, including municipal leaders and decision makers interested in pursuing or implementing renewable energy projects. The report’s Renewable Energy Projects Inventory—a matrix that includes location, tech- nology, project size, ownership, and other available project details—is designed to serve as a standalone record, with data compiled from commercial U.S. airports in all 50 states and some territories. The inventory identifies airports that have developed or host at least one renewable energy project on airport property. At the time of publication, the Renewable Energy Projects Inventory catalogs 225 renewable energy projects at 146 different airports with renewable energy projects. The projects are categorized by the following technologies in the order of frequency of application: • Solar photovoltaic: 158 • Geothermal heat pumps: 26 • Bioenergy: 11 • Wind power: 10 • Solar thermal: 10 • Fuel cells: 4 • Energy storage: 6 Results of the inventory highlight the fact that solar technology has been the most widely developed renewable energy deployed at airports. At publication, the report’s inventory matrix documents approximately 305 megawatts (MW) of solar electricity generation at U.S. airports. The widespread adoption of solar technologies is, in part, attributable to the flexibility and modularity of solar panels, which are able to fit into the airport landscape atop existing or proposed buildings; over surface parking areas; or on the ground, mounted on open land. Additionally, photovoltaic (PV) (electricity-generating) technology has been more widely adopted than solar thermal (heat-generating) technology because solar-generated electricity can be directly incorporated into existing buildings or the broader grid system. In comparison, thermal technology, which uses solar energy to heat water or air for terminals and other airport facilities, can require extensive retrofitting to work effectively with existing heating and cooling systems (Norwood et al., 2014). PV projects can also be deployed farther afield in otherwise underused lands as ground-mounted solar “farms.” Geothermal energy, which uses a geothermal heat pump (GHP) system, has become an increasingly viable option in new airport building projects. GHPs are designed to draw on the constant temperature below the ground surface in an effort to limit a terminal’s or other airport building’s demand for heating and cooling (Benito and Alonso, 2018). GHPs are also being installed in exterior locations at airports, heating runways and walkways and even providing snow-clearing alternatives to mechanical snow removal (Shen, 2015). Other renewable energy technologies that have been installed on a more limited basis include biomass, fuel cells, and wind power. Many of these airport projects were funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), a catalyst for then emerging renewable energy technologies (LaHood, 2010). More recently, improved battery technology— although not specifically for power generation—has become an important system compo- nent for expanding the availability of otherwise intermittently generated renewable energy. Batteries allow airports to generate renewable energy and store it for later use during periods of peak demand, thereby significantly amplifying the overall efficiency of an existing project (Airport Improvement, 2019). Airports also purchase renewable energy from off-site locations through utility-managed programs or private energy brokers to reduce their use of fossil fuel–generated energy

Summary 3 without constructing their own renewable energy projects. Because these agreements are shorter term and can vary from year to year, direct purchase of renewable energy from a utility does not necessarily signify a permanent airport investment in renewable energy; as a consequence, these agreements are not included in the report inventory. Instead, the report describes the purchasing option to highlight how airports can acquire renewable energy in an effort to validate accreditation as a “carbon neutral” airport, an ambitious designation that can be difficult to achieve through on-site generation alone (GreenAir, 2019). The information presented in this report was gathered and synthesized from a review of existing literature and online research, and complemented and enhanced by the input and contributions of airport staff. In addition to the Renewable Energy Projects Inventory, the report’s 10 featured case examples provide analysis of diverse projects at airports that range in size, use a variety of renewable energy technologies and designs, and are located in different geographic regions. These case examples address specific issues such as project planning and site selection, ownership considerations and financing, stakeholder engagement, and permits and approvals. On a broader scale, these examples aim to highlight some of the drivers behind individual projects as well as the lessons learned from project develop- ment. This report offers a compilation of information not otherwise documented in the current literature and seeks to offer guidelines to airports that are considering renewable energy initiatives. The report’s overall findings support the following conclusions: 1. Renewable energy is being developed by a variety of airports, large and small, to support the long-term viability of aviation activities and businesses. 2. Airports recognize the long-term economic and environmental benefits of developing sustainability programs and see energy efficiency and renewable energy as core compo- nents of their organizational sustainability plan. 3. Renewable energy projects can provide clear and measurable economic benefits by leveling the cost of energy, reducing overall electricity purchase from the grid, and creating alternative revenue streams from underused airport property. 4. Renewable energy is a core factor for airports pursuing aggressive long-term energy strategies, particularly net zero carbon emissions and the development of an independent microgrid. 5. Airports are making improvements to electrify transportation, which will expand electricity needs in the near future. Thus, there is a practical opportunity to meet this growing demand with renewably generated energy. 6. Federal aviation programs have evolved over time to support planning and implementa- tion of renewable energy at airports, including the expansion of energy funding opportu- nities under the Airport Improvement Program. 7. Renewable power projects that are incentivized by public programs and that are generated at prices close or comparable to market rates afford airports increasing opportunity to identify viable ways to participate in the broader renewable energy marketplace. 8. Implementation of renewable energy projects at airports varies from state to state because of disparities in the availability of state incentive programs for renewable energy and in regional electricity costs. 9. Solar photovoltaic power is the most widely adopted renewable energy technology. The technology’s popularity is primarily attributable to its modular construction, which allows for placement of solar panels across an airport campus in a variety of applica- tions, including rooftop, ground-mounted, and canopy-mounted options. 10. Geothermal heating and cooling is a growing, cost-effective technology used in the construction and modernization of airport terminals, concourses, and other large buildings.

4 Airport Renewable Energy Projects Inventory and Case Examples 11. Other forms of renewable energy technologies—including biomass, fuel cells, solar thermal, and wind power—have been demonstrated at airports. The economic benefits of these projects are limited, however; as a result, systematic deployment of these technologies by other airports has not occurred. 12. Airports purchase renewable energy from off-site, utility-scale solar and wind projects. Though not as permanent as the development of on-site systems, this option allows airports an immediate means to offset greenhouse gas emissions and reach stated sustainability goals. In aggregating the research, gaps in the knowledge have been revealed, including project cost data to verify the project economics, quantification of environmental benefits of renewable energy projects in terms of emissions reduction, and an assessment of opportu- nities to pair renewable energy with growing electrification of systems. In totality, the report demonstrates from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives that U.S. airports are incorporating and harnessing renewable energy opportunities in an effort to diversify energy sources, realize new economic opportunities, and meet envi- ronmental sustainability objectives. Specifically, renewable energy can offer the following benefits to airports: • Revenue generation by leasing of underused, nonaeronautical property to solar and other energy developers; • Decreased greenhouse gas emissions and reduction of overall carbon impacts from airport energy use; • Increased energy reliability through on-site energy generation and associated infrastructure improvements; • Cost savings by on-site power generation and reduction of utility power purchasing; • Stabilization of long-term energy prices from renewable energy sources that are not tied to fluctuating fossil fuel prices; • Improved local air quality through reduction in on-site fossil fuel emissions associated with heating, cooling, and transportation; • Reduction of peak energy purchases by combining renewables with advanced energy storage technologies; • Stronger partnerships with tenants and airport stakeholders dependent on energy grid stability; • Demonstration of industry and regional leadership that broadly benefits economic develop- ment at the airport and in the community; and • Positive news and public relations regarding airport activities and benefits to the broader community. This report captures the state of practice through 2019 and provides evidence of renewable energy’s contribution to the future of sustainable growth in the aviation sector.

Next: Chapter 1 - An Introduction to the State of Renewable Energy at Airports »
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Airports have implemented a variety of renewable energy technologies since 1999—with the largest growth occurring over the past decade—in parallel with the evolution and maturation of renewable energy markets. Of the renewable energy options available to airports today, the prevailing technology is solar photovoltaic (PV), which accounts for 72% of all projects cataloged in the Renewable Energy Projects Inventory.

The TRB Airport Cooperative Research Program's ACRP Synthesis 110: Airport Renewable Energy Projects Inventory and Case Examples draws on existing literature and data to present the state of practice for airport renewable energy. It presents the integration of renewable energy projects—including solar PV, geothermal, bioenergy, solar thermal, and small wind projects—into airport development and operations and the drivers behind those efforts.

The Renewable Energy Projects Inventory in the report is also available online as a searchable database.

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