New approach to supply airports with clean energy

PV Energy to set up customized solar solutions at airports as green investments

Air traveling and accordingly airports and planes are part of our current understanding of a connected and globalized world. Unfortunately, the amount of pollution caused by airplanes and the quantity of fossil fuels used for the airport facilities themselves does not really fit to the image of a green and clean tomorrow. In fact, airport terminals are undeniably energy-intensive consumers, as they need to keep their operations maintained on a 24-hour basis. 

In view of this critical amount of energy expended by the activity of an airport, photovoltaic technology could lead to an improvement of the energy balance and considerably minimize the negative impact of 24/7 aircraft operations on the planet. Aeronautical installations offer a real opportunity for hosting solar technologies, as they usually occupy hectares of uncultivable land, where in fact large-scale sun2live solar renewable energy solutions could be installed. The implementation of such projects requires specialised experience since special challenges have to be taken into consideration. PV Energy a UK-based expert company for renewable energy through its co-shareholder the Swiss-based clean energy provider The meeco Group is acting in various countries around the world and is keen on realizing projects of this type.

Willing to take a shift towards more sustainable patterns of energy consumption, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda (GOAB) recently made use of PV Energies clean energy expertise. The aim was and is the establishment of top-tier renewable energy solutions across the twin-island nation, as well as the enforcement of a new approach to power the V.C. Bird International Airport. The airport project is nearing completion. A substantial sun2live solar plant was constructed making use of more than 12.000 ground-mounted photovoltaic panels. This sun2live installation will generate up to 4.645 MWh per year and therefore save during the same period 3.019,25 tons of CO2 emissions. This installation will play a pivotal role in the local governments energy management, as the generated power shall almost entirely cover the electricity consumption of the whole airport during sunshine hours.

Nonetheless, projects of such magnitude require very sophisticated, astute analyses of the situation and a far-sighted project planning beforehand. Since airplanes and aerodromes react very sensitive towards glare, reflected sunlight from the solar panels might interfere with fundamental aviation safety requirements and thus jeopardise the smooth operation of the airport. Glint and glare associated with solar reflexion due to PV installations are potential risks for aircraft pilots and therefore represent a serious flying hazard.

Another concern, which is an important part of the project planning, is the potential interference with the radar or other communication devices at an airport. An appropriate distance between the runway and the solar modules must be established in order to be in compliance with safety and fire measures.

Solely dedicated to the successful implementation of the sun2live project at the airport, the PV Energy team of solar engineers has conducted with its local partners several preliminary examinations and carried out intensive related studies, which guarantee the perfect suitability of the solar modules used and thus prove that the this sun2live solar installation will not in the least impede the proper functioning of the operations along the runway of the Caribbean airdrome. A precise glare study has been carried out in order to consider the reflections from the photovoltaic installation. An engineering evaluation defined the proper distance from the aerodrome installations for navigation and communication to eliminate the risk of causing interferences with the electronic systems.

Besides the vast amount of space airport sites offer another auspicious advantage promoting the installation of PV energy solutions. In fact, all airports usually own big battery buffers in case of emergency, which can be easily fed by solar energy without inverter losses directly from the module strings.

In addition the PV installations at the V.C. Bird International Airport will be structurally combined with meeco’s energy storage system sun2safe. This all-in-one converter/inverter/storage will provide backup power to the solar installation safety and monitoring system during nighttime and to bridge interruptions of the grid, enabling an optimum energy efficiency of the airport.

Installing sun2live solar systems at or near airports is a challenge for clean energy companies and needs diligent analysis off the beaten track. By meeting the ambitious carbon emissions reduction targets at such complex structures, PV Energy demonstrates its professional flexibility and adaptability to overcome obstacles. A new page of Caribbean history is currently being written through the development and delivery of tailor-made solutions as substitutes for fossil fuels in Antiguan electric power generation.