Peoples Natural Gas Wins Deal to Develop Pittsburgh Airport Microgrid

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Peoples Natural Gas has won a 20-year contract to build, maintain and operate a 22.5 MW microgrid for Pittsburgh International Airport in Pennsylvania.

airport

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The microgrid, which is expected to be online by June 2021, will be powered by five natural gas-fired generators with a total capacity of about 20 MW and about 7,800 solar panels with a total capacity of 2.5 MW on a landfill owned by the airport. The airport’s current peak demand is approximately 14 MW.

The gas for the generators will come from gas wells drilled on site by CNX Resources, as well as gas from Peoples Natural Gas’ distribution lines. Most of the gas will come from the Peoples’ pipeline. Peoples will combine the gas from the onsite fracking well with the gas in its pipe to ensure its quality for the generators.

Microgrid will supply all electrical needs 24/7

The microgrid will be able to run autonomously and to supply all the facility’s electrical needs around the clock, but the airport will remain connected to the grid and use the grid for backup power. There is additional redundancy for the facility from its existing diesel backup generators. In addition, there are two other gas pipelines feeding the airport.

Pittsburgh-based Peoples is able to deliver the project at no cost to the Pittsburgh International because it will earn back its investment in the microgrid through gas sales to the airport, said Barry Kukovich, director of community relations at Peoples.

Peoples is investing $25 million in the gas generators and $5 million in the solar power installation. The company also is looking at earning revenues from the microgrid by selling energy and ancillary services to the grid, but those agreements are still be worked out, Kukovich said.

The project has garnered strong attention from the microgrid industry. The Allegheny County Airport Authority received 64 responses to last year’s request for expressions of interest seeking a developer.

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

“Part of our mission is to be a world leader in aviation innovation and this project is about powering airports into the future,” Christina Cassotis, CEO of Pittsburgh International Airport, said in a statement. “This project will bring power resiliency and redundancy to enhance safety and ensure continued operations for the traveling public.”

The microgrid is not being expanded beyond the airport, but it is providing power to two businesses within its footprint, a Hyatt hotel and a Sunoco gas station.

Airports focusing on microgrids

Airports are increasingly turning to microgrids to ensure resiliency, especially after a power outage grounded Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson in late 2018, leading to 1,000 cancelled flights and an estimated $25 million to $50 million in losses for Delta Air Lines

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London has included a microgrid as part of the $630 million expansion of the London City Airport. Others developing or considering microgrids include Los Angeles International, New York’s John F. Kennedy International, California’s Redwood Coast-Humboldt County Airport and Tennessee’s Chattanooga Airport.

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