Tennessee’s Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport recently became the first U.S. airport powered by 100 percent solar energy. The facility, which operates more than 61,000 flights a year, announced it has completed work on a 12-acre, 2.64 megawatt (MW) solar farm that generates enough electricity to account for the airport’s total energy needs.
Started in 2010, the solar farm was 90% funded through a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Voluntary Airport Low Emission (VALE) Grant. VALE grants are air quality grants issued to airports that are in non-attainment or maintenance areas. Chattanooga is in a non-attainment area for Particulate Matter 2.5, making it eligible for air quality grant funding. Lovell Field paid the remaining $1 million. The investment is expected to be earned back in under 20 years.
The solar farm saves energy via storage units that allow operations to continue after sundown and includes battery storage technology that allows the system to run off the grid. The system is expected to last between 30 and 40 years.
Airport Authority Chairman Dan Jacobson has stated that the airport has other environmental initiatives planned, such as a “green” friendly Wilson Air facility and electric car chargers in the parking lot.
“This is a momentous day for the Chattanooga Airport as we complete our solar farm and achieve a major sustainability milestone,” said Terry Hart, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Airport in a press release. “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.”