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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Benjamin Scheder-Bieschin

Solar Energy for Airports - Opportunities and Challenges

There is widespread acknowledgement of the necessity for renewable energy, nonetheless there are environmental and social concerns about the large scale deployment of renewable energy technologies and a general ‘not in my backyard’ attitude.

Airports are large, shade-free structures in a relatively isolated location, with an immense electricity demand. They are visited by thousands of people every day, subsequently presenting the ideal platform for solar PV, both in terms of available solar resource, without disturbing any natural habitat, and for raising awareness about the technology among the public.

Although airfields offer an abundance of open space there are numerous restrictions to ensure the safe operation of aircraft. This reduces the available space for solar PV installations significantly. Another location would be the large roof areas of terminals and hangars, but complex owner/tenants issues, HVAC installations and complex or lightweight roof structures hamper installations. Down from the roofs and away from the airfield there is another area that could be very viable for large scale solar installations: surface car parks. Stansted airport alone has around 600.000m2 which could be used to produce up to 30GWh/per annum.

This Thesis demonstrates why solar car parks at airports are beneficial, not only for the environment, but also for the airport and its passengers. Furthermore, it will quantify the potential electricity generation, carbon reductions and cost savings at the top 50 European and top 25 African airports.