In the face of mounting environmental challenges and the global push towards sustainable practices, governments worldwide are under increasing pressure to reduce their carbon footprint and promote clean energy solutions.
Renewable energy has emerged as a critical component of this effort, offering numerous benefits, including reduced greenhouse gas emissions, energy security, and economic growth. To meet these demands airport and government landowners have started exploring innovative ways to harness their underutilized assets, such as non-aviation airport-owned land, to support renewable energy projects.
The Airport Advantage for Renewable Energy
Airports are often sprawling complexes that encompass extensive areas of land. Beyond the runways and terminals, these facilities can include vast expanses of unused or underutilized property. Leasing airport land for renewable energy projects presents a unique opportunity for government landowners to address several pressing challenges simultaneously:
Maximizing Land Utility: Airport land often remains idle, serving no purpose other than as buffer zones or green spaces. Leasing it for renewable energy projects enables landowners to extract value from these assets, turning unproductive land into a source of income.
Advancing Sustainable Goals: Airport sponsors can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability by facilitating the development of renewable energy infrastructure on airport property. This contributes to regional and national renewable energy targets, reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change impacts.
Economic Diversification: Revenue generated from leasing airport land for renewable energy can be reinvested into infrastructure development, community projects, or public services, thereby fostering economic growth and diversification in the region.
Energy Resilience: Airports require consistent, reliable power to operate essential systems. Integrating renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or wind turbines, can enhance energy security, reduce dependence on traditional grid sources, and reduce energy consumption costs.
Recently, the Dulles International Airport announced the construction of a solar and energy storage project that will hold a 100 MW solar farm and a 50 MW battery storage facility. The amount of energy that will be generated will be the equivalent of 37,000 homes when at peak output. The project features an innovative lease arrangement aimed at enhancing the electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure at Dulles. Rather than making yearly lease payments to MWAA for the 100 MW site, Dominion Energy plans to construct two 1 MW solar carports. These carports will generate power for Dulles facilities, in addition to supplying 18 electric transit buses, 50 electric fleet vehicles, and electric vehicle charging stations to support Dulles operations.
Exploring the Potential of Airport Land
There are different types of land resources that can be taken advantage of when considering potential renewable energy development on land. Solar development, wind development, EV charging sites, and battery storage sites are all different types of potential projects that can be utilized on public land. However, there are restrictions on airport land that limit certain resources, such as wind turbines.
Because of height and line of sight concerns, wind turbines are not compatible with airport land use. Solar and battery storage are preferred resources to develop on airport land as they do not create any potential impact on aviation operations. The Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, updated their policy on solar projects on airport land in 2021 intended to make the approval process more efficient to increase the number of airports developing solar facilities on non-aviation land.
LandGate makes it easy for airport landowners to identify their land's potential for solar and battery storage development. Join current LandGate users, Tucson Airport Authority and Denver International Airport, and advertise your airport land available to lease for solar development.
Leasing airport land for development projects is a strategic move for government landowners. It aligns with the global push for sustainability, promotes economic growth, and maximizes the utility of underused land assets. While challenges exist, the benefits of this approach far outweigh the drawbacks. By embracing renewable energy initiatives on airport property, airport sponsors can lead the way in the transition to a greener, more sustainable future.