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75 The renewable energy industry has grown significantly over the past decade, with clean, distributed powerâgeneration projects being installed in many forms across the world. Airports have participated in this growth as they have recognized the economic and environmental opportunities of developing renewable energy projects. These projects have been integrated into airport development and operations programs both as single projects that present a specific opportunity and as broader programs defined by the airportâs strategic, sustainability, and other planning efforts. This synthesis report draws on existing literature and data to present the state of practice for airport renewable energy. It presents the integration of renewable energy projects into airport development and operations and the drivers behind those efforts. Findings and conclusions are summarized below. 5.1 Findings The synthesized findings of this research have been drawn from a broad literature review, a comprehensive project inventory, and in-depth case examples documenting airport experience in developing renewable energy projects. The literature review confirms that airports have implemented a variety of renewable energy technologies since 1999âwith the largest growth occurring over the past decadeâin parallel with the evolution and maturation of renewable energy markets. Projects have been developed at all classifications of U.S. airports and across all U.S. geographical regions and climates. Some renewable energy facilities have been coupled with larger capital programs, while others have been implemented as standalone projects. Of the renewable energy options available to airports today, the prevailing technology is solar PV, which accounts for 72% of all projects cataloged in the Renewable Energy Projects Inventory. These projects are followed in quantity by geothermal, bioenergy, solar thermal, and small wind projects. A few examples of fuel cells also currently operate at U.S. airports, though this more nascent technology is not as replicable as the more widely adopted technologies of solar and geothermal. And though not an energy-generating technology, large battery storage presents an increasing opportunity to further the reliability, effectiveness, and efficiency of renewable energy generation at airports. As noted, on-site solar PV has had the strongest penetration of all renewable technologies. Research revealed the following attributes: â¢ There is flexibility in siting and deployment of solar panels on buildings, on the ground where land is underused, and on canopy structures placed over surface parking lots. C H A P T E R 5 Conclusions and Research Needs
76 Airport Renewable Energy Projects Inventory and Case Examples â¢ Solar PV projects are generally compatible with aviation activities because of the low profile of solar PV structures. Clear guidelines in FAAâs solar policy on how to assess and mitigate potential glare have helped to enhance their siting and design. â¢ There has been strong demandâcatalyzed in part by financial incentivesâin the private solar development community, which has identified airports as both potential providers of leased property and purchasers of generated electricity. â¢ FAA grants for solar PV facility design and installation have encouraged airports to implement such projects. â¢ Because of their relatively simple design and construction process and their incorporation into the existing electricity infrastructure, solar PV projects are easy to implement. Geothermal heating and cooling systems have been the second-most widely implemented renewable energy technology because of the following: â¢ Geothermal energy has an increasingly strong track record in airport development projects. â¢ The availability of utility rebates makes geothermal heating and cooling a cost-effective alternative for new construction projects, compared to fossil fuelâbased systems. â¢ Geothermal energy projects are made possible through funding from FAA through the VALE Program and AIP entitlement funds. â¢ Geothermal heating and cooling projects can present a direct and meaningful opportunity to integrate sustainability into new airport development. The other technologies that have been implemented by airportsâbiofuels, fuel cells, solar thermal, and wind powerâhave primarily been constructed as demonstration projects that, in most cases, do not provide a significant renewable energy benefit. A number of these projects were funded by DOE between 2010 and 2012 as âshovel-readyâ projects under ARRA. There are exceptions, however, where renewable energy projects provide significant energy benefits that are attributable to site-specific conditions. Such projects include the use of biomass for heating airports located in forested regions and the use of RNG for ground transportation at airports with large transportation infrastructures. 5.2 Conclusions On the basis of these findings, this report has come to the following conclusions: â¢ Renewable energy is being developed by a variety of airports, large and small, to support the long-term viability of aviation activities and businesses. â¢ Airports recognize the long-term economic and environmental benefits of developing sustain- ability programs and see energy efficiency and renewable energy as core components of their organizational sustainability plan. â¢ 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. â¢ Renewable energy is a core factor for airports that are pursuing aggressive long-term energy strate- gies, particularly net zero carbon emissions and the development of an independent microgrid. â¢ 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. â¢ Federal aviation programs have evolved over time to support planning and implementation of renewable energy at airports, including the expansion of energy funding opportunities under the Airport Improvement Program. â¢ 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.
Conclusions and Research Needs 77 â¢ 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. â¢ Solar photovoltaic power is the most widely adopted renewable energy technology. The tech- nologyâs popularity is primarily attributable to its modular construction, which allows for placement of solar panels across an airport campus in a variety of applications, including rooftop, ground-mounted, and canopy-mounted options. â¢ Geothermal heating and cooling is a growing, cost-effective technology used in the construction and modernization of airport terminals, concourses, and other large buildings. â¢ Other forms of renewable energy technologiesâincluding biomass, fuel cells, solar thermal, and wind powerâhave 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. â¢ 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 imme- diate means to offset greenhouse gas emissions and reach stated sustainability goals. 5.3 Research Needs This synthesis report presents new information from original research that will help airport staff understand the current state of practice for renewable energy development at airports. Further, the report will help airport staff understand how they might use the information contained herein to assess opportunities at their own airports. Last, the report has also revealed gaps in the existing knowledge set that require additional research. The following research needs have been identified: â¢ Data collection for energy savings, cost savings, and environmental benefits of projects: Some information on energy savings and cost savings was available from the airports that participated in the case examples, though most did not report projectsâ environmental benefits where they could readily be calculated if the energy savings were known. Follow-up research on both forecasted energy savings and associated economic and environmental benefits, as well as on actual savings based on utility bills, would generate data to support future efforts. â¢ Quantification of emissions reduction data to verify environmental benefits: A review of information on existing renewable energy projects reveals an absence of data to assess the environmental benefits of projects. Research that takes existing data or new sources available from airports could be undertaken to calculate the environmental benefits by (1) confirming electricity generation of projects in kW-h using data collected by airports or through a predictive program such as PVWatts; (2) comparing the kW-h generated to EPAâs Emissions and Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID), which contains emissions factors for different geographic areas of the country according to the types of power plants in opera- tion; and (3) reporting both the amount of carbon reduction from eGRID and equivalent measures such as âaverage household electricity consumptionâ or âacres of forest protectedâ to provide the airport industry with useful data on the environmental benefits of renewable energy projects. â¢ Assessment of the opportunity to pair renewables and electrification projects: Airports are undertaking a variety of electrification projects, from electric charging stations for GSE and ground vehicles to frequency converters and preconditioned air units at aircraft gates. These new projects increase airportsâ electricity demands and costs. Airports may have an opportunity to design these projects with a renewable energyâgeneration technology to immediately create not only RECs, but also carbon offsets, and to avoid large increases in electric utility bills. A study assessing and reporting this opportunity would benefit the industry.