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Airports, big energy users, look to solar power

November 13, 2014

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Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is embracing solar power.

Airports are big users of energy. They need power to run everything from runway lights to food concessions.  And that power is a big part of a facility’s budget.

Two airports — California’s Fresno Yosemite International and Minneapolis-St. Paul International — have created solar power projects to help generate the energy needed to power their facilities.

  • In 2008, the Fresno airport build a solar farm with 11,700 panels spread across 20 acres at the facility. Thanks to a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), with Solar Power Partners, along with California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) solar incentives administered by Pacific Gas and Electric, the farm was built without spending taxpayer dollars. The airport now gets 60 percent of its energy from the panels. The solar farm will save Fresno International $19 million in electrical purchases in the next 25 years.
  • Last month, Minneapolis-St. Paul began construction on what will become the state’s largest solar generation site. That might seem odd, given that Minneapolis has entered the ice and snow season. But, the airport will be home to a three-megawatt solar installation on the top deck of two Terminal 1 parking structures. Work on the $25.4 million project is expected to be complete a year from now and is expected, when operating at peak capacity, to generate close to 20 percent of the airport’s total power supply. Energy company Ameresco is leading the project, along with partners including tenKsolar, Thrivent Financial, Cooper Lighting/Eaton Corporation and Hunt Electric.  A federal loan program that funds energy conservation projects will cover $23 million,  while Xcel Energy provided the project with a $2 million grant from their Renewable Development Fund. The airport estimates it will save nearly $11 million in energy costs by 2020.

Keep an eye out for these projects when you fly into Fresno and Minneapolis next time. And check back on Monday for my look at how airports are generating energy in other ways.


Solar Installation at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport,” California State University-Fresno

Environmental Initiative Awards Finalist, 2014

FAA Airport Environmental Program

Airport Energy Efficiency and Cost Reduction,” Airport Cooperative Research Program

Benét J. Wilson is co-editor of and blogs at She has been an aviation/travel journalist for more than 20 years. Follow her on Twitter @AvQueenBenet

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