While airlines are experimenting with biofuels to make the skies greener, the Chattanooga airport in Tennessee is focusing on greening operations on the ground. The Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority just completed the first phase of a 3-megawatt (MW) solar power project, installing a 1 MW array to help power airport operations. The 4.5-acre installation features high-efficiency crystalline silicon solar cells and modules from Atlanta-based solar company Suniva and was implemented by Inman Solar.
Up and running since December, the array has already produced 90,000 kilowatt hours of clean energy, saving the air space from over 62 tons of carbon dioxide.
“Building a solar farm that generates enough power for an entire airport to become energy self-sufficient is an ambitious project,” Inman’s Mark Jones said in a statement. “A key element of this is ensuring that the technology we use is of the highest caliber.”
According to Inman, the ambitious project was made possible with a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which provided 95 percent of the project’s estimated $4.3 million cost.
Born out of Georgia Tech’s University Center of Excellence in Photovoltaics, Suniva asserts that their modules have higher cell efficiency of 19 percent than other state-of-the-art solar technology, partially achieved through their low-cost processing techniques. The company also emphasizes its homegrown status, with its panels meeting “Buy America” requirements that require that at least 50 percent of a product’s content be from the U.S., with final assembly in the U.S as well. The Suniva Optimus modules at this solar farm go above and beyond, with over 80 percent of their content from the U.S.
With its goal of 3 MW of solar, the Chattanooga process is ambitious, especially for an airport of its size. The biggest airport solar project in the U.S. is at Denver, a major hub, where a 4.4-megawatt (MW) project completed last year brought the airport’s total amount of hosted solar power to more than 8 MW.