Why Airports Turn to Microgrids for Sustainability
By Valerie Layan, Global Transportation Segment President, Schneider Electric
How can airports achieve their goals of carbon neutrality and net zero by 2050? A top solution is by integrating microgrids into their green energy plan. Microgrids are being lauded as a smart choice for airports’ low-carbon efforts because of their versatility – increasing sustainability and resiliency, and bringing cost savings.
While airports have only recently begun adopting microgrids, they have long been central to meeting sustainability and power reliability challenges in a large number of other industries, including data centers, hospitals, transportation, and commercial buildings. For example, California’s largest ports are adopting microgrids for energy security and demand flexibility that also meets California’s strict climate regulations. The Port of Long Beach’s microgrid, for instance, ensures a stable supply of energy using innovative features like a mobile battery that can extend the microgrid’s reach throughout the port during emergencies.
Microgrids are self-contained electrical networks that give airports the ability to manage their own on-site power with the control to use it when, and how, they want. They can integrate renewable energy, like wind and solar, and can manage and optimize that renewable energy’s use with features such as on-site storage, like batteries and fuel cells, that can store energy from on-site generation that would otherwise be wasted. This move to greener electricity is important because airports are huge energy users – large airports’ daily electricity and thermal energy use compares to that of a city of 100,000 people.
Microgrids can include and manage multiple types of distributed energy resources (DER), especially those from renewable sources. Microgrids often have the ability to balance supply against the demand through advanced features such as intelligent load shedding and/or the ability to run up or shut down individual generators.
Microgrids are the cornerstone of airports’ sustainable future because their green, resilient power provides essential energy security
Important facilities like airports need not just green, but also reliable power. It’s a safety issue, and also a huge financial concern. Several recent incidences have shown just how expensive and disruptive power outages can be – such as Atlanta International’s 11-hour power outage that cost Delta Airlines an estimated $50 million, as well as stranding thousands of passengers, and leading to around 1,500 cancelled flights.
Having a reliable alternate power source, like a microgrid, can prevent these losses by ensuring a continuous power supply even during outages.
They also bring significant cost savings
Meeting airports’ energy demand with renewable energy from microgrids makes good financial sense:
- They give airports the flexibility to use the least expensive energy choice by working in either grid or island mode to cost-effectively balance the grid during peak periods.
- Airports save money by optimizing energy use.
- Costly power failures can be avoided.
But, to maximize benefits, airports must adopt smart technology to manage their microgrids
Microgrids and supporting connected technology ensure optimal conditions and provide important real-time insights and system stability. For example, microgrid technology gives airports the tools to automatically, dynamically, and remotely manage distributed energy resources. This optimizes renewable energy use and gives airports better control of their energy and the ability to automatically balance the load for stability. In addition, connected technology forecasts the best times to consume, produce, store, and sell energy so that airports can make the smartest, most cost-efficient energy choices.
Adopting microgrids and smart technology – as well as the digital, end-to-end integrated architectures that makes these systems work – also gives airports peace of mind because they ensure reliable power continuity. As localized, self-contained sources of power, microgrids can isolate themselves from the main grid and continue supplying power to the airport even during power disturbances. They also provide cleaner energy than traditional back-up power options like diesel generators, which are the most common source of airports’ emergency power but contribute to airport-related pollution and are expensive to run and maintain.
For example, JFK Airport is leveraging microgrid solutions to reduce energy use by as much as 30%
New York City’s JFK Airport, which handles over 60 million passengers per year, is redeveloping its Terminal One using a state-of-the-art microgrid and connected microgrid tools that will improve the terminal’s sustainability and increase resilience. It is expected to reduce the total amount of fuel required to operate the terminal by as much as 30% and contribute to the airport’s goal of reaching 100% renewable energy usage within the next decade, while also increasing uptime to 99.999%.
Discover more about why microgrids play an important role in a sustainable future
Airports can’t miss this opportunity to significantly advance sustainability and increase renewable energy use using proven technology solutions. Learn more about microgrid technology and how its ensuring green, reliable energy for airports like JFK.
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