Should your Airport consider a Solar Farm? a primer

FAA solar guide
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Sacramento Airport Celebrates Opening of 8.9 Megawatt Solar Facility

Reduce Carbon Footprint

Could be 3rd Party Financed and Operated

A maze of Rules

Sacramento International Airport announced the opening of a new solar facility, providing more than 30 percent of SMF’s electricity. The terms of this new energy source:

  • NRG paid for all of the construction; consequently, it owns and operates the facility.
  • NRG sells the energy to SMF at a reduced rate under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).
  • The project is expected to reduce SMF’s energy costs an average of $850,000 annually throughout the 25-year term of the agreement.
  • the 7.9 megawatt solar farm consists of two locations with more than 23,000 LG solar panels mounted. The electricity generated by the facility is enough to power 1,600 homes a year.


“Wow, we have sun here,” an airport director might say, “Let’s plug in a solar farm here and copy SMF’s success.

Bright idea, but it is not all that easy and surprise, the FAA has an APP for that. Actually, a 162 page pamphlet entitled the “Technical Guidance for Evaluating Selected Solar Technologies on Airports.” Plus, according to The National Academies (2015) [its guide is 168 pages long], sixty- eight airports have already positioned their solar farms on their ALP.


Here are a few points to consider in assessing solar on your site:

  • the technical aspects of converting sun to electricity solar resource map
    • engineering,
    • calculation of potential energy
    • pluses and minuses for airports (i.e. not attract wildlife)
    • different mountings and sitings,
    • local demand and links to grid,
    • operation and maintenance,
    • case studies,
  • Regulatory Considerations
    • airspace reviews
    • NEPA
    • nearby proposed solar farms
  • Glare assessment to evaluate potential glare impacts to:
    • Pilots
    • Air Traffic Control Tower
    • Neighborhoods within the glare footprint
    • Roads within the glare footprint
  • Economics
    • the PPA
    • FAA regulatory issues
    • tax credits
    • tariffs
    • bonds
    • ownership models
  • Federal Role in these projects
    • DOE
    • FAA engineering guidance
    • AIP eligibility
    • VALE

solar array

Solar farms at airports constitute a green and revenue enhancement initiative. The maze of regulatory, technical, financial and environmental requirements is best resolved with someone who has navigated all of those twists and turns.  Benefiting the environment is likely to please your tenants, your neighbors and your boss.






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