Denver International Airport is going greener. The nation’s fifth-busiest airport has announced plans for a 2 megawatt solar energy system to generate 3.5 million kilowatt hours of clean energy each year – about half the power needed to run the airport’s terminal-connecting underground train system.
The project, to be operational by the middle of next year before the Democratic National Convention comes to town, will be one of the largest airport solar panel systems in the country. It is expected to reduce carbon emissions by more than 5 million pounds each year, according to the companies behind the project, MMA Renewable Ventures and WorldWater and Solar Technologies.
The system will put 9,800 solar panels on 7.5 acres near the entrance to the main terminal where they will be visible to drivers along the airport access road. Panels will swivel east to west to follow the sun during the day and generate more energy than if the panels were fixed in one position. Given the location on the high plains at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, the system will be equipped with sensors to detect high winds and heavy snow in order to stop the panel movement and prevent damage.
WorldWater will build the system while MMA will finance and operate it, selling the power generated to the airport under a 25-year contract. The Denver airport will have the option to buy the system after five years.
It’s all part of the facility’s efforts to find alternative sources of energy as a hedge against future utility cost increases, officials said, and fits perfectly with Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s Greenprint project to turn the city into a national leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the airport uses a fleet of alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles, recycles glass, plastic and aluminum, and recovers or recycles de-icing fluid used on aircraft.