Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Airports garnished with greenery

While aviation remains stubbornly fossil fuel dependent, many airports are incorporating solar and wind power. Some of the environmental programmes at airports are impressive, but the main environmental impacts, including greenhouse gas emissions, are from the core business of the flights, not the airports’ operational sites.

Airports host some of the largest solar energy projects. San Francisco Airport in the US has more than 2,800 solar panels on the roof of Terminal 3, and one of the world’s biggest airport based solar projects was launched in August 2008 with Fresno Yosemite Airport’s 9.5 acre, 2 megawatt installation in California. New Zealand’s Auckland Airport has the country’s largest photovoltaic solar panel display on the roof of the arrivals area, measuring 300 square metres. Fed-Ex Express is building its largest solar facility, and first outside the US. Its new cargo hub at Cologne Bonn Airport in Germany will be covered in 16,000 square metres of solar panels.

East Midlands in the UK is one of several airports incorporating wind power. It is adding four wind turbines which it is claimed will provide ten per cent of the airport’s electricity requirements. Yet wind turbines can interfere with flightpaths and elsewhere in the country Newcastle Airport is opposing the installation of seven wind turbines nearby on the Northumberland coast as they might necessitate the re-routing of flights, adding about five nautical miles to the planes’ journeys, see Airport News article. Similarly, plans for 85 wind turbines in Dumfries and Galloway and East Ayrshire in Scotland were rejected after opposition by Glasgow Prestwick Airport.

Many of the world’s airports host gardens on parts of their roofs, including Chicago O’Hare and Seattle in the US. At Chennai Airport near the coast of Bengal in India a green roof will form a prominent ‘green gate’ at the entrance to the parking garage. Chennai is one of many airports claiming to be the world’s greenest, and the greenery extends to two ‘lush, ecologically sustainable’ gardens which will be visible throughout the domestic terminal. The gardens will be just one acre in size. In comparison, the residents of the villages of Tharapakkam, Gerugambakkam, Kollapakkam and Manapakkam face displacement by land acquisition of 137 acres for a second runway, see website Save People from Chennai Airport Expansion, which is just one stage of approximately 2,000 acres of land acquisition for the airport’s expansion programme.

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