Pittsburgh International Airport goes live with first-of-its-kind microgrid powering airport with natural gas and solar energy

Pittsburgh International Airport made this announcement:

Pittsburgh International Airport on Wednesday became the first airport in the world to be completely powered by natural gas and solar energy as part of its newly live microgrid.

The first-of-its kind microgrid increases resilience and maximizes public safety and makes PIT one of the most site-hardened airports in the world.

Airports across the country have been exploring ways to increase power resilience and reliability after several high-profile power outages resulted in thousands of cancelled flights and passenger disruptions. As PIT is set to break ground on building the smartest airport in the world through its new terminal project, creating smart power infrastructure is a key step that can serve as a blueprint for others.

Photo: Tom Reinsel.

The power generated at PIT is the primary supply for the entire airport, including the terminals, airfield, Hyatt hotel and Sunoco. The airport will remain connected to the traditional electrical grid as an option for emergency or backup power if needed. The microgrid will generate power, in part, through onsite natural gas wells and 9,360 solar panels across eight acres.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority Board of Directors in 2019 awarded Peoples Natural Gas a 20-year contract to build, maintain and operate the microgrid at no cost to the airport. In addition to boosting power resiliency and redundancy, the microgrid will achieve savings on electricity costs for the airport and tenants.

Crews started construction in July 2020 and completed the project on schedule even as the pandemic stalled the aviation industry last year.

What is a microgrid?

A microgrid is an independent electricity source that can operate autonomously while maintaining a connection to the traditional grid. It will be powered by natural gas drilled on-site by CNX Resources, in addition to gas from the interstate pipeline system and solar generation. The project will offer a more efficient, sustainable and resilient source of energy.

The microgrid will consist of five natural gas-fueled generators and nearly 10,000 solar panels, capable of producing more than 20 megawatts of electricity, the equivalent of powering more than 13,000 residential homes. The airport’s current peak demand is approximately 14 megawatts.

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

Photos: Pittsburgh International Airport.

Video:

PIT Microgrid