This Is the First U.S. Airport to Be Fully Solar-Powered

An airport in Tennessee is now generating enough renewable energy to meet all its energy needs—a model that could be replicated by other airports.

This Is the First U.S. Airport to Be Fully Solar-Powered

Solar farms such as this one are likely to be a more common sighting at airports.

Courtesy of Chattanooga Airport

The airport of the future is here, and it’s in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport has become the first airport in the country to generate all the power it needs through a solar farm that was completed last month, something we could start seeing more of at airports across the country and throughout the world.

The airport’s 12-acre, 2.64-megawatt solar installation, consisting of 10,000 panels, was made possible by U.S. Federal Aviation Administration grants aimed at helping airports improve their air quality and reduce emissions. The newly completed solar farm is located on the outskirts of the airport.

While Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport is the first in the United States to achieve this goal, it’s not the first in the world. That title goes to India’s Cochin International Airport, in the southern state of Kerala. Cochin Airport became the world’s first airport to be powered entirely by solar energy this past fall thanks to its 12-megawatt solar plant, which has more than 46,000 solar panels, news media reported.

The trend in airports incorporating solar panels into their energy systems is taking off.

A solar energy system made up of 15,000 solar panels was recently installed at Terminal 2 of Dubai International Airport.

Earlier this year, the Hawaii Department of Transportation completed the installation of 2,980 additional solar panels atop Terminal 2 at Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. The airport has a goal of ultimately installing more than 24,000 solar panels.

And numerous other airports have installed solar panels and built solar farms to generate renewable energy, including the largest airport-based solar farm, a 183-acre farm at Indianapolis International Airport, which houses 87,478 solar panels and provides 22.2 megawatts of renewable energy for the region’s electric grid. Denver International Airport has an impressive facility as well: a 56-acre, 10-megawatt solar farm with 42,614 solar panels.

Chattanooga airport’s renewable energy achievement is part of a much larger journey for the city, which was once one of the more polluted cities in the nation, according to an airport report about the sustainability projects underway at Chattanooga’s airport. Chattanooga is now working toward becoming one of the cleanest and greenest U.S. cities, and a cornerstone of that transition has been the airport’s commitment to reducing its environmental impact.

Construction of the solar farm began in 2011, when the first panels were installed, and eight years later the panels now account for all of the energy needs (and then some) of the airport. The airport, which boarded some 500,000 passengers last year, sells the electricity from the panels to the regional utility grid and then purchases a portion of that renewable power back to supply all of its own needs.

>> Next: How Airlines Are Working to Reduce Their Carbon Footprint

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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