Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Monterey Regional Airport (KMRY) celebrates completion of its solar project

Jennifer Fahselt and Chris Morello with the Monterey Regional Airport at the airport’s solar array on Tuesday.



Monterey >> The multi-million dollar solar array project at the Monterey Regional Airport will be unveiled on Thursday, flipping the switch on the energy needs of 95 percent of the facility.

“Financially it makes sense and it’s our effort to be more environmentally friendly,” said Mike La Pier, Monterey Regional Airport executive director. “It’s the greening of the airport.”

The $3 million project is situated on about 3 acres of land on the north side of the 498-acre airport near the Navy Flying Club.

“We tucked it in,” said Chris Morello, Monterey Regional Airport senior manager of planning and development. “We chose the location according to the environment.”

The site is on airport land that was not being utilized, had no trees to remove, and cannot be seen by the public from any angle. According to Morello, the ground was relatively flat so only a small portion had to be leveled to match the surrounding area.

OpTerra Energy Services was chosen for its solar program, having partnered with other regional airports including Salinas Municipal Airport and Yuba County Airport.

The array consists of single-axis tracking, ground-mount, solar photovoltaic panels, projected to produce 1.5 million kWh of clean energy annually, the equivalent of providing electricity to power 111 homes a year.

The power generated by the project will reduce the airport’s yearly utility expense by about $184,000. The facility’s utility bills are about $280,000 a year, La Pier said.

The rows of panels rise about 10 to 12 feet above the ground, tracking the sun’s position, and tilting to receive maximum exposure. The renewable energy produced by the project is tallied to give the Monterey Airport District full compensation from Pacific Gas & Electric Company.

Three glint and glare studies were performed, submitted, and approved by the FAA to protect air traffic control tower personnel and pilots from being blinded by the reflection off the panels.

The Monterey Regional Airport solar project was fully funded by a California Energy Commission loan at 1 percent interest to be paid back over about 16 years, “if not sooner,” said La Pier.

The annual loan repayment of about $186,000 will use some, if not all, of the savings from using the solar energy array and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 500 tons annually.

But this is not the only facet of the airport’s sustainability program goal to save money, be more energy efficient, and move off the grid.

The facility has been converting its lighting to LED, finding ways to replace potable water with non-potable water for uses on the property, and retiring four gas-powered vehicles to make room for three electric vehicles, according to La Pier.

“Most lights have been converted to LED in the terminal,” said La Pier. “Another project will start in the next few weeks for runway and taxiway lighting and should be done by April of next year.”

The airport will also modernize and make more efficient its electrical vault, which disperses commercial power through a series of regulators.

The Monterey Regional Airport has been operating since 1936 and is owned by the municipalities that make up the Monterey Peninsula Airport District. It handles regular daily flights to San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas, and sees nearly 400,000 travelers every year.

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