US Airport Takes International Eco Lead
The 100-ton Jenbacher natural gas-fired generators will produce 20 megawatts of electricity. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)
Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) is set to expand its microgrid just 12 months on from when it became the first major US airport to be powered entirely by natural gas and solar energy technology.
The airport has saved $1 million in energy costs since launching its own microgrid in July 2021, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by around 8.2m pounds a year.
And because the microgrid’s 9,000 solar panels and five natural gas wells operate independently of the traditional grid, it has also given the airport greater protection from power cuts and cyberattacks.
“We’ve lowered our energy costs, we’ve lowered our carbon output and we have guaranteed ourselves resiliency and redundancy. That’s really important to an airport,” said CEO Christina Cassotis.
Sustainability at PIT extends far beyond the microgrid. The airport is working on alternative fuel strategies, repopulating the honeybee population and completing the Terminal Modernization Program.
“We are looking at using any and all materials in our new terminal that come out of, for example, ripping up the ramp and crushing the concrete—that will be the base layer of our roadway system,” said Cassotis.
And, back at the solar field, the airport is considering doubling the number of solar panels: the solar facility is also constructed on closed landfill.
“We are really proud of the microgrid and we see this just as one example of the work we are doing in sustainability,’” said Cassotis. “It’s really led to a reconsideration by the industry of what’s possible.
“We all need aviation and a lot of us want it to be more sustainable, so we want to be at the forefront of making that happen and we are doing it right here.”