Denver Airport Solar Push Gains Altitude

It won’t power the planes — not yet, anyway — but solar energy is fast becoming a big part of air travel. That’s certainly the case in Colorado, where Denver International Airport (DIA) is embarking on its third large-scale solar project – this one its biggest yet. The airport already commissioned a 2 MW installation in 2008 and a 1.6 MW facility commissioned in early 2010

Constellation Energy made the announcement, saying it will finance, own and operate a 4.4 megawatt solar installation at the airport. DIA will buy the electricity produced by the system over a 20-year period. Oak Leaf Energy and Intermountain Electric are also participating in the project, called “the largest customer-sited solar photovoltaic installation in Colorado.” Construction will begin this fall and wrap up in early 2011, if all goes according to plan.

Denver Solar

image via Constellation Energy

Just nine months ago, DIA announced plans to build “the world’s greenest parking facility,” a 4,200-vehicle garage incorporating alternatively fueled shuttle vans, solar and wind energy sources, porous pavement, natural landscaping and geothermal energy. “Denver’s airport has a widespread reputation as a green airport,” Kim Day, aviation manager for DIA, said in a statement. “Our partnership with Oak Leaf Energy, Constellation Energy and Intermountain Electric not only expands our sustainability efforts, but is a great example of public-private partnerships advancing the green economy.”

Constellation said that by structuring the project as power purchase agreement, DIA was able to avoid upfront costs while gaining the assurance of fixed power costs over a long term. The system is expected to supply approximately 7,000 megawatt-hours of electricity to DIA each year, utilizing approximately 19,000 Yingli Solar photovoltaic panels. Generating the same amount of electricity that will be produced by the new solar installation using non-renewable sources would result in the release of more than 5,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Actually, the 4200-space green parking facility the article refers to is a private off-airport parking facility, named Canopy Airport Parking, just outside of Denver International Airport. It’s located on Tower Road just north of Pena, and will be complete in late 2010.