The project, started back in 2010, was a massive $10 million undertaking. The crown jewel of the project is the 2.74 megawatt solar farm, which is about the same size of 16 football fields. They have also implemented a battery storage technology that allows the entire system to run off the grid, if need be.
President and CEO of the Chattanooga Airport Terry Hart stated that, “this is a momentous day for the Chattanooga Airport as we achieve a major sustainability milestone.” He goes on to say that the benefits for not only the airport, but also the community, are immediate, and they’re “proud to set an example in renewable energy for other airports, businesses, and our region.” This solar farm also increases the economic efficiency of the airport.
Overall, enough electricity is produced to power about 160,000 light bulbs, and constant sunlight is not required for the system to maintain operational.
The hope is that they will recoup about $5 million of investment costs over the next 20 years. Yet, even though the first airport in the U.S. to run entirely on solar power, it is not the first in the world. In 2015, India’s Cochin International Airport became the world’s first solar powered airport, equipped with a 29.5 megawatt system. Across the globe, South Africa’s George Airport runs 41% of its operations from a solar farm, and the Galapagos’s Seymour Airport is run entirely on joint wind and solar power.
Officials for the Chattanooga airport hope that they become a model and a symbol to other airports across the U.S. that it is possible to be 100% reliant on alternative energy, and that it is a step that needs to be taken.
Hopefully, within the next few decades we will see more of these alternative-energy dependent airports not only across the United States, but across the globe. And hopefully this will communicate across other hubs of transportation, corporations, and businesses alike.
Photographs courtesy of Chattanooga Airport