Pittsburgh International Airport’s microgrid will use 20-MW solar array

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Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) is planning to be wholly powered by solar power and natural gas microgrid. For the first time in the United States, a major airport will be completely powered by its own microgrid with the use of its own on-site natural gas wells and a solar array.

Airports across the country have been exploring ways to increase power reliability after several high-profile power outages resulted in thousands of canceled flights and passenger disruptions. As PIT works to build the smartest airport in the world, creating smart power infrastructure is a key step that can serve as a blueprint for others.

“My congratulations to the Airport Authority board and staff for taking this important step forward to ensure that our airport is both sustainable and resilient,” said Rich Fitzgerald, county executive. “As an economic generator in our community, the airport’s ability to support our community and its businesses is absolutely imperative and today’s action ensures that we have the tools to be self-reliant and self-sufficient at this facility.”

The power generated at PIT will become the primary supply for the entire airport, including the airfield, Hyatt Hotel and Sunoco gas station. The airport will remain connected to the traditional electrical grid as an option for emergency or backup power when needed such as extreme weather events or other grid interruptions. The solar array will be approximately 7,800 solar panels across eight acres that will be visible from Interstate-376 in Pittsburgh.

“Part of our mission is to be a world leader in aviation innovation and this project is about powering airports into the future,” said Christina Cassotis, CEO of Pittsburgh International Airport. “This project will bring power resiliency and redundancy to enhance safety and ensure continued operations for the traveling public.”

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Peoples Natural Gas will build, maintain and operate the microgrid, which is expected to be online by summer 2021.

“The airport is a critical asset for our region that is recreating itself with innovative solutions using the latest in technology and equipment to better serve all of us. We’re proud that Peoples is the airport’s chosen partner to provide a forward-thinking energy solution for significantly cleaner, more sustainable and less expensive energy,” said Morgan O’Brien, president and CEO of Peoples. “It sends a strong message that if you are an innovative company, Pittsburgh is a great place to do business.”

About the Microgrid

The microgrid will offer a more efficient, sustainable and resilient source of energy, making PIT one of the most site-hardened airports in the world, the company said in a press release. The solar array will be capable of producing more than 20 MW.

In addition to Peoples, other firms involved in the development of the microgrid will include CNX Resources, IMG Energy Solutions, EIS Solar, PJ Dick and LLI Engineering.

“The public and private sectors coming together to strengthen an important regional asset and utilizing our abundant, home-grown natural resources to make it happen — this is exactly the kind of pragmatic thinking and leadership that can drive our region forward across the board,” said CNX Resources President and CEO Nick DeIuliis. “We’re pleased to be a part of this effort and proud that the natural gas we are developing on-site at the airport will help power this innovative project.”

News item from Allegheny County Airport Authority


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