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New ‘Microgrid’ At Pittsburgh International Airport Is A Big, Green Infrastructure Success

By District Energy posted 08-04-2021 16:59




Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) reached a milestone in July when it took itself completely off the local power grid, establishing its own microgrid based on on-site natural gas wells, as well as solar power. In doing so, PIT not only insulates itself from power outages affecting the surrounding area, but it also provides a working model for clear-eyed thinking about balancing concern for the environment and combating global warming with the need to power our world.

Located directly in the Marcellus Shale Basin, PIT is blessed with substantial deposits of natural gas. In 2013, PIT reached an agreement with Consol Energy  to develop wells to reach those deposits using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. PIT also increased its use of solar power, establishing a solar array of almost 10,000 solar panels also located on airport land. PIT now may have the model energy grid for the future - natural gas coupled with solar input. As solar technology generally continues to improve, it is likely that mix will be reversed in the future. However, even with current scientific knowledge and technology, PIT's microgrid dramatically improves the environment.

To construct its microgrid, PIT contracted with Peoples Natural Gas to build the grid with power generated from a 20 MW power plant. Seventeen MW of that power comes from natural gas. During sunny days, 3 MW from the solar array add to that power. The microgrid services the airfield, terminals, hotel, and fuel facilities. It also remains connected to the main local power grid for backup should that need arise. However, when PIT produces excess power, it can sell that back to the main grid at a profit.

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