September 24, 2021

The Pittsburgh Airport Microgrid is an example of resilience worth replicating, but difficult to replicate

Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) was disconnected from the grid in early June. Far from embracing the “simple life” that preparers dream of, it has achieved a certain degree of independence and resilience. Airports and survivors across the country will applaud it: it has its own independent and abundant electricity.
In an age where regional and airport power outages are published every two weeks, PIT’s new microgrid seems very desirable.
Power outages at major US airports have been a recurring theme for many years. Denver International Airport is the fifth most trafficked airport in the United States. Despite the redundant power provided by the Denver area grid and backup generators, it was still out of power for several hours last week. In May, there was a power outage in most areas of the Los Angeles International Airport.
In 2017, the long-term closure of Hartsfield Jackson Airport in Atlanta, the busiest in the United States, caused travel chaos across the country, resulting in the cancellation of 1,400 Atlanta Delta Air Lines flights, a loss of approximately US $ 25 million. , or a loss of 1.6%. The power outage at Los Angeles International Airport in the same year had similar consequences.
A few years ago, such failures inspired the management of Pittsburgh International to think about its power.
“[2017] The events in Atlanta and Los Angeles led us to say,” Let’s look at the microgrid and its viability, “said Christina Cassotis, CEO of Pittsburgh International.
Foot On The Gas
Cassotis and his team have a significant advantage in their calculations. The airport is located west-northwest of Pittsburgh on the Marcellus Shale, a deep gas reservoir discovered in parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia. In the past decade, Marcellus has experienced fracturing to promote a boom in exploration and mining.
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Pennsylvania, together with Ohio and West Virginia, promoted the shale gas drilling and leasing boom in the east, while states such as Maryland and New York abandoned this opportunity. In 2013, the FAA approved natural gas drilling at the airport. PIT has enough space. It is one of the 10 largest airports in the United States by land area, covering 8,800 acres. CNX Resources CNX 0.6.gan, a natural gas exploration and development company, drilled in 2015.
Five natural gas generators feed PIT’s microgrid.
Five natural gas generators provide 20 megawatts of electricity for PIT’s microgrid, … [+] BLUESKY PIT
PIT is also in the planning stage of a $1.4 billion new terminal project. Contrary to expectations and the marketing story that the company is constantly seeking, the terminal will not expand passenger traffic.
“In fact, we are reducing our footprint. This will not happen much,” Cassotis said frankly.
PIT expanded into a major hub for American Airlines in the early 1990s. When the airline canceled the hub in 2004 and subsequently merged with American Airlines in 2013, it followed the bulk of PIT’s passenger traffic. Southwest Airlines has a LUV of 1.1%. American Airlines occupies part of the capacity. The airport has added 8 new airlines since 2015, but no longer has “super-large” passenger capacity.
“This is a very natural division of the source and destination markets, not a hub,” Cassotis admitted.
It also has a regional heritage of natural clean energy, resource mining (coal), and a desire to stimulate economic growth.
“It’s all really combined,” observed Cassotis. “There is natural gas here, we have seen what is happening in Los Angeles and Atlanta, and we are considering building our new terminal. It is clear that sustainability and low cost, as well as flexibility and support partners can be combined in this
According to Tom Woodrow, PIT vice president of engineering, the airport team considered potential partners and options, but did not specify any specific combination of resources or facilities for the microgrid.
Regional power company Essential Utilities and its subsidiary People’s Natural Gas ultimately proposed that the best solution for them is a 20 MW natural gas power plant equipped with five natural gas fuel generators and solar energy capable of generating a set of 3 MW peak power batteries. The airport currently consumes 14 MW during peak operations.
“The 23 MW solution provides us with more than 100% of all energy and there is room for to grow if necessary. This is one of the main things we like about your solution. We can disconnect from the grid and operate as an island,” Woodrow said.
An 8-acre 9,360 panel array generates 3 megawatts for PIT’s microgrid.
An 8-acre 9,360 panel array is PIT’s The microgrid generates 3 megawatts of electricity. In the future… [+] The BLUIESKY PIT
micro network is operated and maintained by a utility company. You can transmit and sell excess electricity to the main regional grid through interconnection. The solar array is actually located on top of an old landfill. Although its 9,360 solar panels can generate about 13% of the peak power of the microgrid, it is clear that natural gas has taken the heavy responsibility.
Replication resilience
There are other obvious examples of civil/commercial airport microgrids. As of press time, the FAA was unable to figure out how many such networks exist across the country, but Humboldt County Airport in California recently touted to start building its own micro-network.
Pure solar grids are more similar to backup power sources than stand-alone microgrids at small branch airports. Local and state officials can predictably praise its climate change mitigation and renewable energy features, but under suboptimal conditions, its ability to power the airport and its permanent US Coast Guard station appears to be limited to 24 hours.
Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, has a more powerful combined heat and power (CHP) microgrid that has been in operation since 2002. As a PIT,

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