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One-Time Dirtiest City Lands First All-Solar Airport


By Naomi Millán Power & Communication
Industrial solar panel with air traffic control tower in background

Tennessee’s Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport became the first in the nation to be fully powered by solar when it completed its 2.74 megawatt (MW) solar farm earlier this summer, in mid-June. The small airport has one terminal with five gates, and sees about 488,000 passengers a year.

The $10 million solar farm project was completed in three phases, starting in 2010. Federal Aviation Administration grants funded 90 percent of the project, and the airport picked up the remaining $1 million, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The airport also has onsite energy storage to help it achieve full-operation on solar round the clock, according to Bloomberg.

In 1969, Chattanooga was laboring under the label of dirtiest city in the country, due to its air pollution. The genesis of the label was once credited to Walter Cronkite, but that may be more urban legend than fact. Regardless, the city worked hard to reverse its situation. Solar seems to be playing a large role. BlueCross BlueShield is about to start installing 10,000 solar panels at its Chattanooga headquarters with a max capacity of 4.3 MW. The largest solar array in the city is a 9.5 MW array at the Volkswagen assembly plant, installed in 2012, according to the Times Free Press. 

Naomi Millán is senior editor of Building Operating Management. Check out  Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport’s real-time power generation on their online dashboard

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