Airports are large infrastructural facilities, requiring a lot of power to run day-to-day operations. Power outages at the airport are rare as operations are critically aligned and the power requirements are planned and arranged to make sure that operations are not thwarted due to unwarranted outages.
With the ever-increasing demand for power, seamless access to power round-year is costly, denting the financials of running day-to-day operations. The cost of ensuring essential backup is not only very high but also quite complicated.
These costs are generally transferred to the customers in the form of higher landing fees, fares, and usage charges.
The issue of airport power failure had come to the forefront during a power outage at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport in December 2017. The outage led to more than 1000 flight cancellations and delays and a loss of $50 million.
The possibility of power independence by producing power on-site would mean that the day-to-day operations would be less affected by global energy markets.
Why airports are best suited for creating solar microgrids?
1. Airports generally are spread over a large land space, with approximately 30% of land remaining unused.
2. Airports are high-power facilities having high energy consumption, requiring a backup.
3. Aviation sector is a huge contributor to carbon emissions, globally. A migration to renewable power is apt to obtain a Net-Zero balance.
Microgrids: Oppurtunities and Challenges for Airports
Most airports are powered by the local grid for their day-to-day power needs, with power backed-up, usually using diesel-powered generators. The unique functions of an airport require additional steps to ensure the resilience and reliability of power supplies.While grid power is costly; maintaining a power-back is quite tedious.
With steep decline in the cost of solar energy, airports have started considering solar power, not just to back-up critical functions but also to run more electrical utilities, thereby decreasing the dependence on local grid.The ability to drive operations independent of the grid, allows a level of versatility and resiliency to the power supply beyond what a backup generator can provide. This is where the concept of microgrid gains relevance.
For megastructures like airports, microgrid, can help eliminate a massive power draw from the local/public grid, potentially reducing the likelihood of an availability-driven outage in the first place. Thus by minimizing the risks of power outages, airports can protect against revenue losses from flight cancellations and delays.
Microgrids, also present the opportunity for the sale of unused power, thereby opening a revenue stream, which may be very critical in a capital-intensive business like aviation.
While considering each of these benefits, the airports also need to be prepared to operate and maintain the microgrid to ensure optimum output with minimum downtimes. For micro-grid that run in island mode, co-ordination with the local grid should allow for emergency connection in case of outages and downtimes in the microgrid.
The Kochi International Airport in India is a fully solar-powered airport in the world. This solar plant has been operating successfully and fulfills the airport’s power needs throughout the year.
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