Solar energy projected to power 10 homes at San Francisco Airport

Written by Alyssa Daniels, CNN Filming in the sunny skies of Sunnyvale, California, a flyover that follows a group of people as they walk to the airport showcases their growing reliance on the local…

Solar energy projected to power 10 homes at San Francisco Airport

Written by Alyssa Daniels, CNN

Filming in the sunny skies of Sunnyvale, California, a flyover that follows a group of people as they walk to the airport showcases their growing reliance on the local airfield.

To avoid disrupting business, developers will soon turn this new gateway to the Silicon Valley into a solar-powered gateway.

The project was conceived by the Texas-based RoofWorld International , a design and building firm for commercial and residential rooftops . In the next year, it hopes to install solar panels on the existing roof at the airport to install enough energy to power 10 homes and make room for the latest crop of tenants.

Founded in 1996, since then the firm has focused on projects in the Southwest United States, with Southern California being its most recent milestone.

“The architecture of the Bay Area (new housing developments) is on grade, with a lot of sunlight coming in that radiate in all directions,” said Rick Novosel, co-founder of RoofWorld. “If you look for the new development community in California, it’s unusual to find something at an airport, like a lot of airports around the world. So we saw a lot of opportunities.”

Solar energy’s growing appeal

Solar power is increasingly attractive to cities, in large part because it helps cut down on the amount of carbon emissions from the overall production of energy.

The Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, aimed to hold global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. While the agreement has yet to enter into force, the global community has adopted several initiatives to cap global warming since then.

China and the US are the leaders in this effort. But a growing number of international universities are working on methods to produce sustainable electricity.

Reinventing airports

At San Francisco International Airport, a project called Airports Solar Academy aims to change this. It is part of a broader effort to power the entire airport without any carbon emissions, by 2050.

Airports that use solar panels on their buildings can afford to run them 24 hours a day because of the flexible nature of the technology, said Boris van der Wal, a senior researcher at the Environmental Defense Fund, which helps mentor Airports Solar Academy.

“You can use space that is not suitable for storing energy,” he said. “You can put up solar panels and become fully self-sufficient.”

There are also several other factors that can make airports stand out from other sites, according to Jan Helmers, executive director of renewable energy for Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems.

“It’s important for airports to be close to the grid because they are … an energy lifeline,” he said. “But you don’t want to be far from the grid because you don’t want to influence it.”

For example, they will also pay up to a 25% premium in electricity prices, compared to their neighbors.

Airports Solar Academy is one of a number of projects that will be established at San Francisco International Airport in the next decade, Helmers said.

In 2014, he spoke at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, where he proposed the creation of 10,000 square meters, to house the renewable energy system .

The city of Sunnyvale developed the initiative with the belief that the solar energy power would be transferable to other buildings of its size.

“In the last years, the solar industry has been developing very well,” Helmers said. “You can go up a two- or three-story building (using solar energy) very easily.”

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