Tennessee’s fourth largest city, Chattanooga, became the first American airport to be 100 percent solar powered – and joins only a handful of airports who claim the same across the world. The $5 million dollar solar farm project has been seven years in the making with funding by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“This is a momentous day for the Chattanooga Airport as we complete our solar farm and achieve a major sustainability milestone,” said Terry Hart, the president and CEO of the Chattanooga Airport. “This project has immediate benefits to our airport and community, and we’re proud to set an example in renewable energy for other airports, businesses and our region. While generating a local renewable resource, we are also increasing the economic efficiency of the airport.”
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While the Chattanooga airport is small and runs flights to just ten domestic cities, it has seen growth by over 500,000 additional passengers in the last year. The solar farm installation is reportedly the size of 16 football fields with capacity for 2.64 megawatts of energy and storage units that enable constant energy supply even during cloudy days and nighttime.
The investment will pay for itself in approximately 20 years, and the installation is expected to last between 30 and 40 years with regular maintenance. The rise in popularity of renewable energy is partially due to increasing concern about climate change as well as the rise in affordability of solar panels.
According to Forbes: “In 2009, for example, the average gross cost of installing a solar panel was $8.50 per watt. Now? Just shy of $2.98—a 65% decrease in 10 years.” This shift has made a broader range of large and small scale project possible.
Internationally, India, the Galapagos Islands and South Africa also have 100 percent solar powered airports. In the U.S., the Denver Airport has a larger solar installation, but because of their scale of operations, Chattanooga is the only American airport so far that can claim 100 percent renewable energy.
Image via jaidee