skip to content

MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

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.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.