The largest rooftop solar array in New York City and on any U.S. airport terminal will brighten John F. Kennedy International Airport’s planned New Terminal One in a matter of years, according to the companies behind the project, which was revealed on Thursday.
The vast photovoltaic system—of more than 13,000 solar panels—will help power an independent microgrid set to transform the terminal “into the first fully resilient airport transit hub in the New York region,” according to the firms behind the project.
Because the airport is hardening itself against potential blackouts during storms, which is a major worry for any coastal facility, the project is regarded as a resiliency triumph. However, according to one energy specialist, the initiative will not enhance the bigger regional grid, from which the airport terminal might still draw a lot of power. Part of the problem stems from local restrictions that prohibit microgrids from supplying power to the entire neighborhood. Furthermore, the business that designs the microgrids claims that it cannot create surplus power.
JFK has contracted AlphaStruxure, an alternative energy solutions business, to design and build what will be four new microgrids—three when the new terminal opens in 2026 and the fourth when it is completed by 2030—to power its new terminal, which is due to open in 2026. The microgrids will be an interconnected system of various power sources, including more than 13,000 solar panels, batteries, and fuel cells.
Airports are interesting places for solar installations due to their large footprints, acres of parking lots, and voracious desire for power. According to a 2020 study conducted by the University of Colorado Denver, almost 20% of the country’s 488 public airports have installed solar panels since 2010. Denver International Airport, which currently has over 42,000 panels, is one of the trend’s leaders.