The Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport in Tennessee has become the first airport in the United States to run entirely on solar power. The small airport operates over 60,000 flights a year and has recently completed work on a 12-acre, 2.64-megawatt solar farm that generates enough clean electricity to account for the airport’s total energy needs.
The project was funded largely by the Federal Aviation Administration, cost $10 million, and took nine years to complete. The facility uses onsite batteries to help power operations at night. The installation is expected to last 30 to 40 years.
The solar farm is in the southwest corner of the airfield on land that is unusable for aviation purposes. It is visible from the two runways at the airport.
Officials from nearly 50 airports around the world have visited or contacted the Chattanooga airfield in recent years to learn about its solar operations. Several major airports, including San Diego and London’s Gatwick, have also installed solar panels that provide a portion of their power needs. The world’s busiest airport – Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson – is looking into constructing renewable energy microgrids to power part of its operations. Airports generally have plenty of vacant land that can be used for solar panels that can lower their power bills.
The largest airport solar installation is actually Cochin International in Kerala, India, which became 100% solar powered in 2015. It is the 7th largest airport in India. Its solar array has nearly 30 megawatts of capacity. Airport managers there were fed up with huge electric bills and invested about $9 million to install the solar array. It is expected to have paid for itself in the next couple of years.
Photo courtesy of Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport.