Rooftop PV Greening Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner

For decades, the aviation industry has been notorious for its fossil fuel consumption. But it looks like Boeing might be trying to change that. The company, along with South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G), recently announced the completion of a photovoltaic (PV) system on the roof of the Boeing South Carolina 787 Final Assembly building in North Charleston, S.C. The 2.6-megawatt (MW) PV system consists of more than 18,000 thin-film PV laminate modules covering 10 acres of the factory’s rooftop, making it the largest rooftop PV installation in the Southeastern U.S.

The system is expected to generate enough electricity to power about 250 homes, and will be owned and operated by SCE&G. Boeing will receive credit for the energy produced by the system through the utility’s net metering program. In order the power the facility with 100 percent renewable energy, Boeing has agreed to offset the remainder of the plant’s electrical needs by purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs) from SCE&G’s North Charleston biomass generator.

Boeing SC Solar

image via Boeing

“Our 787 Dreamliner is manufactured using fewer hazardous materials and designed to consume less fuel, and produce fewer emissions,” said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “It only makes sense that our business operations in South Carolina reflect the environmental progressiveness of the airplane we’ll build here.”

The installation is aligned with Boeing’s other recent sustainability efforts, including supporting research and development of aviation biofuels in Hawaii, and partnering with Siemens on a smart grid technology project for the U.S. Department of Defense, the company said.

The Boeing factory in South Carolina has been a bone of contention between the company’s management and the Machinists union, which filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board to block its opening. However, a new deal between the union and Boeing apparently could result in that complaint being withdrawn.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).