Pittsburgh International Airport is redefining how airports of the future will be powered. For the first time in the U.S., a major airport will be completely powered by its own microgrid with the use of its own on-site natural gas wells and solar panels. The first-of-its kind model will increase reliability and public safety while achieving savings on electricity costs for the airport and tenants.
Airports across the country have been exploring ways to increase power reliability after several high-profile power outages resulted in thousands of cancelled flights and passenger disruptions. As PIT works to build the smartest airport in the world, creating smart power infrastructure is a key step that can serve as a blueprint for others.
“Part of our mission is to be a world leader in aviation innovation and this project is about powering airports into the future,” said Pittsburgh International Airport CEO Christina Cassotis. “This project will bring power resiliency and redundancy to enhance safety and ensure continued operations for the traveling public.”
The power generated at PIT will become the primary supply for the entire airport, including the airfield, Hyatt hotel and Sunoco. The airport will remain connected to the traditional electrical grid as an option for emergency or backup power when needed such as extreme weather events or other grid interruptions.
A microgrid is an independent electricity source that can operate autonomously while maintaining a connection to the traditional grid. It will be powered by natural gas drilled on-site by CNX Resources, in addition to gas from the interstate pipeline system and solar generation. The project will offer a more efficient, sustainable and resilient source of energy, making PIT one of the most site-hardened airports in the world. The Allegheny County Airport Authority Board of Directors awarded Peoples Natural Gas a 20-year contract to build, maintain and operate the microgrid at no cost to the airport. It is expected to be online by summer 2021.
The microgrid will consist of five natural gas-fueled generators and approximately 7,800 solar panels, capable of producing more than 20 megawatts of electricity, the equivalent of powering more than 13,000 residential homes. The airport’s current peak demand is approximately 14 megawatts.
In addition to Peoples, other firms involved in the development of the microgrid will include CNX Resources, IMG Energy Solutions, EIS Solar, PJ Dick and LLI Engineering.
“The public and private sectors coming together to strengthen an important regional asset and utilizing our abundant, home-grown natural resources to make it happen — this is exactly the kind of pragmatic thinking and leadership that can drive our region forward across the board,” said CNX Resources President and CEO Nick DeIuliis. “We’re pleased to be a part of this effort and proud that the natural gas we are developing on-site at the airport will help power this innovative project.”
— Solar Builder magazine