WWST’s CEO, Quentin Kelly, recalls it well. “We attended meeting after meeting in Fresno to discuss the airport’s solar layout and its potential effect on pilots during landings” (none) because there was fear that the solar panels would reflect the sunlight and “blind the pilots over the runways.” ”This was all new to the commissioners and while initially a major cause for concern,” says Kelly, “our team explained that the panels absorb the light, thus creating electricity, as opposed to reflecting it.” From there Kelly got the job approved and Fresno-Yosemite International became the first airport with a major solar array – offsetting their grid energy requirements and supplying 70-80% of their electricity. Digging in at Fresno didn’t at first come without a lot of obstacles for WorldWater as issues from drainage canals, railway lines , terminal parking and the PG&E power lines all had to be overcome – all the while keeping the airport safe for air traffic. Overall, as Fresno’s Kevin Meikle, AIA, Airports Planning Manager at Fresno put it: “An excellent installation! We would not change a single item if it was rebuilt today.”
These two “first in solar flight” airport projects were just one solution to improve air quality through reduced emissions but also helped reduce energy costs. Both Denver and Fresno-Yosemite airports have proven themselves excellent stewards of the earth’s natural resources and serve as a model for other creative energy efficiency methods of airport operations. For example, Fresno’s solar system supplies lighting, air conditioning, controls and tower communications and has been constructed on land near the runways that was deemed unusable. That project has so far saved more than $6 million over the last several years. Denver, the fifth busiest international airport in the USA, was the world’s largest airport solar installation when it was completed in 2008. As such, it was the nation’s most visible solar photovoltaic system, spanning seven and a half acres at the entrance to the main terminal.
Bottom line: We are honored to have headed the solar airport installation initiative and are proud that the FAA Technical Specifications used WorldWater & Solar designs as their template for all national solar airport implementations.
At a glance, details for Fresno-Yosemite and Denver International Airport solar installations:
-Both set on 7.5 acres
-3,000,000 kWh annual energy output per installation
-Ground-mounted single-axis tracking solar array systems