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Benefits of Airport Solar Farms

aerial photograph of a solar farm at an airport surrounded by runways and grassland

As the world shifts towards sustainable and renewable energy sources, solar power has gained significant attention as a viable alternative to traditional fossil fuels. With the increasing demand for electricity, many countries are looking for ways to enhance their renewable energy capacity. One of the most promising solutions is utilizing airport land for renewable energy projects.

Why Airport Land?

Airports offer vast areas of unused land that can be repurposed for solar projects. Typically, the land is unsuitable for other uses because of noise from low-flying aircraft. These lands are typically flat, have clear skies, and are located in remote areas with minimal shading from surrounding buildings or trees. This makes them ideal locations for installing solar panels which require unobstructed access to sunlight. Additionally, the airport itself represents a single, large customer immediately adjacent to the project, making them even more attractive to solar energy companies.

There are tens of thousands of airports or airfields around the globe. Many of these sites were specifically chosen as flat stretches of land near a city, town or other population center, further increasing their suitability for solar projects. In fact, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. has 14,400 private-use airports and 5,000 public-use airports, highlighting the potential that airports have to contribute to clean energy development through solar projects on their property.

Benefits to the Public

Utilizing airport land for solar projects provides numerous benefits to the public and public health, specifically for the environment and the economy.

Environmental Benefits

The use of airport land for solar energy production has numerous environmental benefits. First, it reduces the need for land development in other areas, preserving natural habitats and ecosystems. This is especially important in densely populated countries where available land for industrial use is scarce.

Moreover, solar energy production does not emit any harmful greenhouse gases, making it a clean source of electricity. Denver International Airport (DIA) is a great example of this, as the airport was one of the first to install solar panels on airport property. According to DIA's website, the 42,614 solar photovoltaic arrays with a capacity of 10 megawatts could offset almost 12,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

Economic Benefits

Along with the environmental benefits of leasing airport lands for solar projects, there are also significant economic benefits associated with using airport land for solar projects. As airports are typically located near cities or towns, they have access to existing infrastructure such as roads and power grids, reducing the cost of building new infrastructure for the solar project.

Furthermore, airports can benefit financially from leasing their land for solar projects. This can provide a new source of revenue for the airport, helping to offset operational costs and potentially reducing air travel costs for consumers.

Utilizes Existing Resources

Another advantage of using airport land for solar is that it utilizes existing resources without disrupting other industries or communities. Since airports are already built on these lands, there is no possibility of displacing people or businesses to make way for solar panels. This also avoids potential conflicts with other land uses, such as agricultural or residential areas.

Benefits for the Airport

Along with the many benefits to the public of leasing airport land for solar farms, there are also many benefits for the airports themselves.

Generates Revenue

When airports lease their land for renewable energy projects, they have the opportunity to generate revenue through lease payments. Solar leases generally pay between $700-2,000 per acre per year, presenting airports with a significant opportunity to generate additional income from their property.

Saves Electricity Costs

Utilizing airport land for solar farms  can also help airports save on their electricity costs. By using solar energy, airports are able to offset a portion of their electricity usage and potentially reduce their energy bills by a significant amount.

DIA serves as an excellent example of how airports can leverage their property to achieve significant cost savings in electricity. By operating 10 megawatts (MW) solar facilities, DIA not only reduces its carbon footprint but also benefits from lower-than-average electricity costs for the energy generated by the solar arrays installed after 2012. Any surplus electricity is sold back to the utility through the Xcel Solar Rewards program. All contracts undergo the city council's approval process, and the aviation department collaborates closely with the city government's sustainability department to ensure alignment and success.

Promotes Sustainability

With growing concerns about the environment and climate change, airports that utilize their land for solar projects demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. This can improve the airport's public image and attract positive attention from customers and the community.

The Rise of Airport Solar Farms

Overall, utilizing airport land for solar projects provides benefits to both the public and airports. It promotes sustainability, generates revenue, reduces electricity costs, and utilizes existing resources without disrupting other industries or communities. However, only around 20% of airports across the United States have adopted solar power over the last decade. As more airports recognize these benefits and make the transition to solar energy, it will have a positive impact on the environment and the economy, making it a win-win for everyone involved.

Airport property owners can list their land for lease for solar energy for free on LandGate's one-of-a-kind marketplace for exposure to a wide network of solar energy developers and investors. LandGate can also assist with site analysis, site prioritization, and procurement materials, providing a unique solution to help airports leverage their property for renewable energy.


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