For the first time, a major US airport will be completely powered by its own microgrid, leading to cost savings and a more reliable power supply.
The power generated at Pittsburgh International Airport in western Pennsylvania 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 during extreme weather events or other grid interruptions. The microgrid will generate power, in part, through on-site natural gas wells and approximately 7,800 solar panels across 8 acres (3.2ha).
“My congratulations to the Airport Authority board and staff for taking this important step forward to ensure that our airport is both sustainable and resilient,” said county executive Rich Fitzgerald. “As an economic generator in our community, the airport’s ability to support our community and its businesses is absolutely imperative and today’s action ensures that we have the tools to be self-reliant and self-sufficient at this facility.”
The Allegheny County Airport Authority board of directors, which operates the airport, 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.
A microgrid is an independent electricity source that can operate autonomously while maintaining a connection to the traditional grid. In this case, 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 Pittsburgh microgrid will consist of five natural gas fueled generators and approximately 7,800 solar panels, capable of producing more than 20MW of electricity, the equivalent of powering more than 13,000 residential homes. The airport’s current peak demand is approximately 14MW.
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.