At airports, the usable space is limited to a few areas: runways, terminals and storage facilities. Much of the rest of the land is left fallow, requiring maintenance from airport operators (mowing the grass, keeping wildlife from interfering with planes, etc). But what if that land could be used to generate energy? US Department of Agriculture researchers have been exploring alternative uses for unused airport land with the goal of reducing wildlife hazards, and in a new study they’ve shown that much of this land could be converted for solar, wind or biofuel production.

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Since 2009, USDA researcher Dr. Travis DeVault has been exploring potential uses for land at or near American airports. DeVault estimates that airport properties in the US contain about 1,276 square miles of idle grassland — an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. Adding wind and solar generation to airports would be a win-win, because it would both discourage wildlife from entering airport land and it would generate more revenue for airports. As the blog EarthTechling notes, airports in Indianapolis and Denver have already been experimenting with solar energy, demonstrating that major airports can easily double as solar farms

“Though there’s a big push to increase renewable energy production in our country, land managers are cautious about the impact that wind, solar and biofuel production may have on wildlife and conservation efforts,” DeVault recently told the USDA Blog. “Why not locate alternative energy production on and near airports where wildlife presence is already discouraged?”

Via EarthTechling

Photos by USDA and Kleinblittersdorfer