Krishan Tangri, BAC General Manager Assets, with some already installed solar panels

What do you do if you have a vast amount of sun soaked space in Queensland if you are a major airport? Brisbane Airport’s response is to use it to harvest free renewable energy and slash its reliance on fossil carbon emitting coal burning sources of electricity.

Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) is investing in a major renewable energy Solar PV project capable of generating more than 9,315,000 kilowatt hours a year.

(The announcement coincides with British Airways returning to the forefront of a push to replace fossil carbon emitting jet fuel with a renewed biofuel production goal in the UK, reported further down in this post.)

The Brisbane Airport 6MW system, consisting of 22,000 panels spanning an area of 36,000 meters squared or more than twice the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), will be installed across six sites at Brisbane Airport (BNE).

Brisbane Airport’s International Terminal alone will support 1.98MW with 7,133 panels covering more than 11,675 square metres, making it the largest single roof top solar panel installation at an Australian airport and BNE and the largest commercial roof top solar system in the Southern Hemisphere.

Krishan Tangri, BAC General Manager Assets, said electricity is one of the biggest expenses to running Brisbane Airport with dozens of large buildings requiring cool, lighting and heating 24 hours a days, 365 days a year.

“We are acutely aware of the increasing energy needs of running a major airport and since 2012 we’ve had an extensive energy reduction program in place resulting in the completion of 40 projects which collectively save more than 8 GWh per year.

“We are in the enviable position of having thousands of square metre of un-impeded roof space ideal for solar harvesting and, with systems becoming more efficient and more affordable to install, it makes financial sense to invest in this readily available supply of renewable energy to save costs and decrease our carbon footprint.

“Once fully operational, the new system will account for 18 per cent of BAC’s direct electricity consumption, or 6 per cent of our total consumption, further complementing the savings we’re making through air conditioning control optimisation, lighting control upgrades and LED technology within BAC buildings, car parks and street lighting,” Mr Tangri said.

The solar energy generated per year is equivalent to powering over 1,700 Australian homes for a year, with carbon offset equal to planting over 50,000 trees or taking 1,500 cars off the road each year.

Epho, an Australian commercial solar company specialising in serving Australian businesses with solar energy solutions, collaborated with Sam Khalil Managing Director of Shakra Energy.

Shakra Energy is the developer of commercial and large scale solar plants and the party that assembled the team for the bid. Sam Khalil will be on the steering committee to ensure an efficient and effective development of the solar development.

Oliver Hartley, Epho Managing Director, said the BAC project is not only the biggest commercial solar installation in the Southern Hemisphere, it is also one of the more complex given the live environment of the airport.

“To win this project, Epho had to demonstrate superiority in project management, stakeholder management, engineering, operations and work health and safety.

“The introduction of such a significant solar system is a prime example of how BAC is adopting world-leading technologies in harmony with its sustainability focus,” Mr Hartley said.

Design of the system is currently underway with installation commencing from December 2017 and completion expected in August 2018.

British Airways returns to the fossil carbon free fuel quest

In another development today British Airways has committed to a new plan to make its own biofuel derived from waste biomass, similar to the GreenSky project that BA signed up to with US firm Solena in 2010.

The unfortunate history of that initial project is recounted in this article in Air Transport World. You might need to take out a free subscription to read this ATW story.

However the punch lines are that BA expects to refine sufficient non fossil carbon releasing jet fuel to to power all of its  787 Dreamliner flights from London to San Jose, California and New Orleans, Louisiana for a whole year.

One of the cost advantages of biofuel is that it can be made on or near the airports where it is going to be loaded into waiting aircraft, saving the inefficiencies that result from remote refining and often long distance tankering of  conventional fuel.

This is an important if neglected issue in Australia, where the policy settings appear to embrace the refining closures that force the country’s transport and industrial users of refined petroleum products to rely on imports.

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