Pittsburgh Is Now Home to the World’s First Major Airport Completely Powered by a Hybrid Microgrid

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The airport microgrid in Pittsburgh is now operating, giving the Pennsylvania city the stature of having the first major US airport completely powered by an on-site solar energy and natural gas microgrid. 

airport microgrid

By boscorelli/Shutterstock.com

Completed this week, the 20 MW microgrid is now the primary power supply for the entire Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT), including the airfield, terminals, hotel and fuel station.  

With enough electricity to power the equivalent of 13,000 homes, the microgrid consists of five natural gas generators and 9,360 solar panels installed across eight acres. 

The generators will be fueled by natural gas from on-site Marcellus Shale wells. 

Designed to boost sustainability and maximize public safety, the microgrid has been installed to meet the airport’s current peak electricity demand, estimated at about 14 MW.

In the event of an emergency, the airport will still be connected to the electric grid for access to backup utility power. 

Peoples Natural Gas was awarded a 20-year contract to construct and maintain the microgrid by the Allegheny County Airport Authority, which manages both PIT and the Allegheny County Airport.

Construction for the project officially began in July 2020, and the microgrid was completed on schedule despite industrywide delays caused by the impact of COVID-19. 

In conjunction with Peoples Natural Gas, organizations including Duquesne Light, LLI Engineering, IMG Energy Solutions, CNX Resources and EIS Solar assisted in the microgrid’s development.  

While sustainable microgrids are effective in improving energy resilience for a large number of applications, PIT has broken ground for other airports to do the same. 

Over the last few years, access to reliable electricity has become a larger concern for the aviation industry, with outages causing delays, cancellations and disruptions to ordinary airport operations.   

Pittsburgh International Airport CEO Christina Cassotis described PIT as an industry leader, with one of the most “site-hardened public facilities in the world.” 

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