CO2 Emissions

Published on April 1st, 2014 | by Roy L Hales


Borrego Is Installing Solar At San Diego International Airport

April 1st, 2014 by  

Originally published on the ECOreport.

Terminal Rendering

Someone from Borrego Solar is either flying out from San Diego International Airport (SDIA) or coming through it two or three times a week. Seventy company employees will be taking off for a meeting in May. Borrego has witnessed the transformation that started in 2008 when San Diego became the first US airport to adopt a formal sustainability policy. Now they will have a part in it. Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. and the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority will develop a 3.3-megawatt (MW) solar system featuring solar panel arrays on the roof of the newly expanded Terminal 2 West.

Borrego Solar will finance and build the system through a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA), which is expected to save the Airport Authority between $3 million and $8 million over the contract period.

“A private investor will pay for the installation and sell the energy it produces to San Diego International Airport at a competitive rate,” a spokesperson from Borrego said. “That is typically less than what they pay per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to their local utility. The SDIA pays nothing up front, they’ll see savings on their energy bill, they’re ‘greening’ their energy mix, and they’ll have insight into what the cost per kWh is over the term of the PPA. To a certain degree, that insulates them from the volatility of the energy market as the cost of electricity trends upwards.”

“PPAs sound too good to be true,” he continued, “but they are indeed a win-win for all parties involved. The system owner/investor gets a return on the investment. San Diego airport obtains solar without making the capital investment. Borrego Solar is paid to design, construct, operate and maintain the project. How is this possible? Because the initial commodity (IE: the energy) that sets this transaction in motion is available for free from the sun!”

“This solar project – the first at the airport – will be a noteworthy and visible highlight of our ongoing commitment to sustainability” said Thella F. Bowens, President and CEO of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.

The airport recently went through a $1 billion “Green Build” terminal expansion. Ten new gates were put in to reduce congestion. A dual-level roadway, separating arrival and departure passengers, was built to reduce traffic. More security lanes were added for improved passenger flow, and the concession areas were expanded. Everything is LEED Silver certified and, through more than 1.4 million kWh recouped by energy efficient solutions, expected to cost $450,000 a year less to maintain than a normal building of its calibre.

SDIA also participated in the San Diego Gas & Electric’s Retrocommissioning (RCx) program to update the older terminal and central plant so they were on par with the newly constructed Green Build facilities.

Fourteen electric vehicles were purchased for travel onsite and twenty EV chargers have been installed.

In February 2012, San Diego became the first US commercial airport to install LEDs on its runways, guard lights, and airfield signs. This lowered the airport’s electricity costs by $27,000 per month.

That same year, it became the first US airport to publish an annual sustainability report based on Global Reporting Initiative guidelines, and in February 2014 San Diego became the first airport to sign the Climate Declaration.

The North Parking Lot

The North Parking Lot

After they decided to install solar panels, SDIA picked Borrego through a competitive bidding process.

It was a good fit. In the three decades since it was founded, Borrego has made 1,000 installations totaling more than 100 MW and become a national company with offices in San Diego, OaklandBostonAustin, and New York. A spokesperson from the airport said they were impressed by Borrego’s track record and the fact that they are making airport installations in Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Borrego Solar will start the project in mid-2014 and is expected to finish late this year.

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About the Author

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the the ECOreport, a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of North America. He writes for both writes for both Clean Technica and PlanetSave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over 1,600 since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

  • Matt

    Oh yea, bottom pic is parking lot solar. My fav, when you get back to your car it isn’t 140 degrees inside.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I’m surprised the Walmarts and Home Depots are not doing this out in the Central Valley where summer cooks.

      Next step – as long as you’re setting up the structures and opening the pavement for wires add in some EV charge points.

      • Omega Centauri

        Haven’t seen too many panels on my rare trips in the valley. A few here and there, but nothing like in the bay area.

    • Omega Centauri

      The parking lot picture seems to have the panels facing away from the sun. I was hoping it was just an optical illusion, but the sun is definetly coming from the right, and it sure looks like the panels are facing left. Now maybe they can tilt right/left, and someone thought facing the wrong way would look better??

      • Bob_Wallace

        Most likely that was the way parking was already set up.

        Facing panels east or west still produces about 80% of the power of south facing panels. And it creates more valuable electricity because it’s reaching earlier/later into the day and providing for the pre-/post-solar peak.

        Here’s what the wholesale price of electricity looks like in Germany on a sunny day. Not a lot of money to be made by producing more electricity at 2pm. But there’s money to be made at 8am and 5pm.

        • Omega Centauri

          Only if they are actually getting time of use(production) rates. I don’t have the impression small projecst like this get that, but maybe I’m wrong.

          I hope they didn’t buy an Australian system, and foolishly follow the directions to face them north. I remember hearing about some solar water heaters in San Diego in the seventies. Prof got called in to find out why they weren’t working. The contractors bought the kit from Australia, and followed the directions to put them on the north side of the building facing north. Duh! A lot of people don’t have the confidence in their sense of physics/geometry and just blindly do what the directions say.

          • Dave R

            Any solar PV system can get on a TOU schedule here in San Diego (and most of California).

            Actually, you don’t even need solar to get on a TOU plan which makes electricity from 12pm-6pm more expensive than electricity at other times.

      • If they are facing west, it makes sense. People think of San Diego as “always” sunny but that’s not true. The marine layer rolls in at night and it takes a while in the morning for it to dissipate.

        Having the panels face west means that they receive light from the sun when it’s most intense, during the afternoon, and it also means that it’s not facing where the sun is during the time the marine layer is interfering with it.

  • JamesWimberley

    LED lighting has an enormous additional payoff to businesses like airports beyond low running costs: the lamps don’t blow for decades. Heathrow had to hire mountaineers to change the fluo lights under the high ceiling of Terminal 5 – nobody had thought of access for replacing them. Now they are LEDs.

  • Will E

    Install Solar and make a lot of money.

    • That’s what’s getting the Walmarts, GMs, etc on board

      • mike_dyke

        “A private investor will pay for the installation and sell the energy it
        produces to San Diego International Airport at a competitive rate,”

        Given that payback on solar installations is a lot less than 20 years and maintenance cost is very low, why don’t the SDIA pay upfront for the system and save even more money in the long run?

        • What is this blasphemous heresy you speak?…What kind of sicko are you?…Why do you hate America?…How dare you suggest government save money at the expense of private sector profits!!!!!!!! Take your communist a$$ back to commieland!!!!!!!!


          • mike_dyke

            LOL (unless you actually mean it in which case **** ***)

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