Here’s a new vocabulary word for the globalized economy: “Aerotropolis”. Coined by Dr. John D. Kasarda, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, an “aerotropolis” consists of an “airport city” and its outlying clusters of aviation-linked businesses and associated residential development. As struggling U.S. airports begin looking toward renewable energy as a new opportunity for revenue; their aerotropolises can benefit from associated economic growth and infrastructure development.

This concept is one of the driving forces behind the Indianapolis Airport Authority’s (IAA) announcement that it plans to host one of the largest airport-based solar farms in North America. Scheduled to be operational by the end of 2012, the array of more than 41,000 photovoltaic (PV) panels will be installed on ground-mounted racking systems over nearly 60 acres of land near the Indianapolis International Airport exit off I-70. The solar farm is expected to produce more than 15 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually, enough to power more than 1,200 average American homes for a year.

image via Johnson Melloh Solutions

“[The solar farm] supports our commitment to sustainability while helping to grow and diversify our revenue stream,” said John D. Clark III, executive director and CEO of the IAA. “Finding productive and harmonious uses for airport land ultimately aids our efforts to attract and maintain the air service that anchors the IND Aerotropolis and generates economic benefits throughout our region.”

The site will be financed, designed, constructed and operated by ET Energy Solutions, a joint venture between three locally-based firms.  The group will work in conjunction with Sanyo North America, which will provide panels for the project. Electricity generated by the facility will earn revenue for the airport through the Indianapolis Power and Light Company’s production-based incentive for PV. According to Indiana’s Clean Energy Portfolio Goal, the utility is required to generate 10% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2025.

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