Huge Solar Array Lands At Phoenix Sky Harbor

The country’s airports, increasingly, seem to have gotten the memo on solar power: witness the Indianapolis International Airport’s planned installation of 41,000 photovoltaic (PV) panels on a ground-mounted racking system, for example, and Chattanooga Airport’s planned build out of 3 megawatts (MW) of solar generation. But the solar panel installation planned for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, fittingly enough, dwarfs both of these other projects in scope.

Sky Harbor recently announced the dedication of a 5.4-MW solar power array on the rooftops of its rental car center and the two buildings that comprise the airport’s east economy garages. The system is expected to generate the equivalent of 51 percent of the electricity used each year by the rental car center and the parking garages and toll plaza, saving $4.7 million over the next 20 years.

Sky Harbor Airport Solar Installation

image via SunPower

These installations make use of high-efficiency solar panels from Phoenix-based SunPower, which designed and built the system, and will also be operating and maintaining it. As per a power purchase agreement, the airport is hosting the system and buying electricity at rates that are competitive with retail electricity, providing a hedge against rising electricity costs with no capital investment.

Another partner in this installation is Arizona Public Service (APS), which has a renewable energy incentive program that offers financial incentives that helped to offset up to 40 percent of the costs associated with solar installation. For the airport system, the renewable energy credits associated with the energy produced by the system will be transferred to APS in fulfillment of the state’s renewable energy standard and tariff.

“With this SunPower system, Sky Harbor Airport is reinforcing its commitment to energy conservation and improving air quality in Arizona, while saving airport funds,” said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, in a statement. According to estimates provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, Sky Harbor’s solar power system will offset the production of more than 5500 tons of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent of taking 19,800 cars off the roads of The Grand Canyon State, over the course of the next 20 years.



Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

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