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Washington D.C. Airport Demonstrates Need for Combined Heat & Power (CHP) Microgrid

By Paige Davis posted 08-16-2018 17:34


Paige Davis, IDEA

Eight months ago, almost to the day, IDEA published an article in response to a power outage and grid failure that affected Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Today there is a sense of déjà vu as another major US airport is affected by a power outage, this time in our nation’s capital.

The recent power outage affecting Ronald Reagan National Airport, again demonstrates the importance of reliable and resilient energy supply for mission-critical facilities. Although yesterday’s power outage last only 90 minutes and emergency backup power allowed planes to continue to take off and land it is easy to imagine how much worse it could have been.

As a safeguard against utility supply failures or grid interruptions, many airports, healthcare and university campuses have installed district energy/combined heat and power systems on their campus, providing greater efficiency and energy reliability year round.  For example, JFK International (JFK) in New York, Los Angeles International (LAX); Pearson International (YYZ) in Toronto, even smaller Bradley International (BDL) near Hartford, CT have installed combined heat and power or cogeneration, to economically produce both power, heat and cooling for the terminals.  These systems can also be configured as “microgrids” which enable the option to “island” and isolate from the grid to produce their own electricity and thermal energy during extreme weather events or other grid interruptions.  You might recall that Princeton University and New York University both utilized their campus district energy/CHP microgrids to maintain reliable and resilient energy services during the worst weather conditions of Super Storm Sandy in October 2012 that knocked out grid power to over 8.1 million customers across 21 states.

Dominion Energy and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, and really any modern airport, would be well-served to consider installation of combined heat and power (cogeneration) to modernize and strengthen their operations.  Dozens of US colleges and universities have evaluated and implemented similar CHP central plant upgrades over the past 20 years with the specific intent to reduce energy costs, increase efficiency and enhance operational resiliency, especially to support highly valuable research activities on campus.  Adding CHP and microgrid capability seems like a prudent investment for one of the nation’s critical transportation hubs.  The 2300 members of the International District Energy Association (IDEA – are standing by to help make it happen.