Solar Flying at Hawaii and Texas Airports


The 1MW first phase of Tucson International Airport’s 2.5MW parking lot solar canopy becomes operational, offsetting about a fifth of the terminal complex’s total power needs. The Hawaii Department of Transportation announces plans to install 2.6MW of solar PV at 12 of the state’s airports, which will help achieve the state’s 2030 energy-efficiency and renewables goals.

More airports are going solar in an effort to reduce operating costs and demonstrate commitment to sustainable development. There are more than 15 solar airport farms in the U.S., including Fresno Yosemite International Aiport, Denver International Aiport, Chicago Midway Airport, and Indianapolis International Airport. The Indianapolis Airport installed a 12.5MW project, representing the largest solar airport installation in North America.

“Airports are an ideal location for solar canopies because of the large amounts of space they can cover, additionally serving as desired shade to cars parked for hours or even days,” said Steve Hill, President of Kyocera Solar.

Tucson International Airport

The most recent addition to the list of solar airports is Tucson International Airport. The first phase of the airport’s 2.5MW parking lot canopy installation recently became operational. The 1MW first phase offsets about a fifth of the terminal complex’s total power needs.

The project, part of the airport’s ongoing environmental efforts, converts the abundant sunshine in “The Old Pueblo” into renewable energy powering the airport’s main terminal. It uses $5.7 million in funding awarded by the Federal Aviation Administration and $280,000 contributed by the Arizona Department of Transportation to offset a federal grant matching requirement.

This project’s federal grant is part of a program that provides funding for airport projects that promote energy efficiency under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

Construction on the main public parking lot began in May 2013, kicking off a three-phase installation expected to be completed in two to three years. Work has already begun on phase 2 in the remaining 7 acres of the parking area.

Collaboration with Natural Power & Energy helped ensure that the system was properly sized for the airport’s power output and glare avoidance requirements. By working closely with Tucson-based contractor Barker-Morrissey Contracting, the design-build team was able to meet the tight installation deadlines of the 5-acre first phase with time to spare. Kyrocera Solar modules were selected for the first phase of the project.

Kyocera Solar’s president commented: “We are glad to have completed this first phase before the busy travel season; it’s a nice holiday bonus to know that part of the electricity usage in the main terminal is being offset by the parking lot’s large solar array. Kyocera Solar is proud to power this important project in our home state.”

Hawaii Department of Transportation

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HIDOT) will have a total of 2.6MW of solar PV installed at 12 of the state’s airports. The projects, consisting of 9,100 solar panels in total, will contribute to achieving the state’s 2030 goal of meeting 70% of its energy needs through efficiency measures and renewable sources.

Tourism is a vital part of the Hawaiian economy, with nearly all visitors entering the state through one of its 12 airports. Those airports annually serve about 16.5 million residents and visitors. Since Hawaii’s energy costs are two to three times the U.S. average, the project will play an important role in helping HIDOT operate its airports more efficiently.

The transportation department recently awarded Johnson Controls a 20-year contract to design, manage, and install energy efficiency measures that will upgrade the 12 airports, reduce energy usage by about 49%, and with additional operational improvements save a total of $518 million at the 12 state-operated airports. In addition to solar installations, reductions in energy usage will be achieved through new lighting systems and ventilating and air conditioning upgrades.

HIDOT will save $15.8 million in utility costs the first year after project implementation, followed by an additional 5% savings in each remaining year of the contract. Construction will begin in January 2014 with completion expected in December 2015.

Dave Myers, President of Johnson Controls Building Efficiency, commented: “This project will help the state meet its goal and is a model for others who are looking for ways to become more efficient.”

Across the state, this project will create more than 300 skilled trade jobs and nearly 90 professional, administrative, and managerial jobs while adding more than $670 million in economic development.