This week, construction began on an electrical microgrid that will completely power the Pittsburgh International Airport by summer 2021. All permits and regulatory approvals have been received, clearing the way for an energy plant to be built on airport property and nearly 7,800 solar panels installed on eight acres located off I-376 just before the airport exit.
The new facilities will produce 20 MW of electricity from the natural gas generators and about 3 MW from solar. The airport’s current peak demand is approximately 14 MW.
The solar facility design is about 75% complete and is on a separate track for permitting and regulatory approval. The current schedule has the solar facility construction beginning in the fall, and construction of both facilities is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2021.
The airport’s microgrid will become its primary power source, but it will remain connected to the electrical grid as an option for emergency or backup power.
“Part of our mission is to be a world leader in aviation innovation and this project is about powering airports into the future,” said Christina Cassotis, Pittsburgh International Airport CEO. “This project will bring power resiliency and redundancy to enhance safety and ensure continued operations for the traveling public.”
Once the microgrid is online, it will help to avoid power outages that have affected airports, including Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, Los Angeles International and Washington Reagan International. Officials said it will also save money on electrical costs.
Minor site prep construction began a few weeks ago, including removing old pavement and relocating an electrical line. On Monday, crews moved an 80-foot drill into place to begin foundation work.
“Even during these very challenging months, this project has remained on track, which is a credit to everyone who has been working on it and all of its components,” said Tom Woodrow, VP of engineering at Pittsburgh International Airport.
The facility, which will be built, operated and maintained by Peoples Natural Gas, will power both the Landside and Airside terminals, the hangars and maintenance facilities, the airfield, the Hyatt hotel and a Sunoco gas station.
Construction of an additional electrical switchgear, a type of main breaker panel for the Landside and Airside Terminal, is also underway to support the electrical infrastructure for the microgrid.
“Having the switchgear replaced ahead of the microgrid tie-in will eliminate the need to disconnect the microgrid from the old switchgear and then re-connect into the new one, which would be more costly and inefficient,” Woodrow said.
News item from Allegheny County Airport Authority