Today the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey held a completion ceremony to celebrate the energization of a 1.34 megawatt (MW) solar array on the rooftop of LaGuardia Airport’s 3,000-car Terminal B Garage. As part of the broader plan to transform LaGuardia Airport, the Port Authority selected ForeFront Power, a leading North American developer of solar and energy storage solutions, to develop the solar project.
The Port Authority has committed to a goal of net-zero-emissions by 2050 and a 50% reduction of direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030, becoming the first U.S. transportation agency to adopt the Biden administration’s climate goals. The agency is implementing renewable energy at its airports to reduce carbon emissions, meet infrastructure needs, and ensure long-term climate preparedness and sustainability for the region.
The Port Authority did not have access to its own capital to invest in a solar project of this size. To move forward, it needed a private partner with the ability to capitalize on tax incentives as well as the expertise to construct, operate, and maintain the solar project. Through a competitive bid process, the Port Authority selected ForeFront Power to develop the project.
ForeFront Power developed and installed the solar project through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which enabled the Port Authority to complete its project at no upfront cost and without bond funds. ForeFront Power also ensured the project capitalized on all available tax incentives, complied with FAA glare policy, and met key interconnection requirements for installation and energization.
Under PPA terms, ForeFront Power developed, owns, and maintains the solar project and charges the Airport a fixed, below-market rate for electricity, which is locked in for 20 years. The Airport achieves a low, fixed rate for electricity plus budget certainty by avoiding utility rate increases for decades. ForeFront Power will continue to operate and maintain the system at no cost to the Airport. Along with guaranteed solar project performance, the Airport will save an estimated $17 million on electricity over 20 years, with over $400,000 in savings in Year One alone.
The Terminal B solar array is the Port Authority’s largest completed solar project to date. Terminal B requires a great deal of energy – up to 16 MW of energy per day. The solar project comprises over 3,500 solar modules that will reduce the Airport’s energy consumption by 5%. It will generate more than 1.7 million kilowatt-hours of solar energy annually and offset nearly 1,328 tons of CO2 emissions per year, which is equivalent to the CO2 emissions from 1.3 million pounds of coal burned.
The benefits of the Terminal B solar project extended beyond electricity cost savings and emissions reductions. Port Authority staff learned what to expect when reviewing solar project drawings, interconnection requirements, and PPAs. Following the completion of the Terminal B array, the Port Authority is now exploring innovative ways to incorporate both on-site solar and EV charging elsewhere at LaGuardia.
Christine Weydig, who left the Port Authority in mid-2022 but formerly served as the Director of Sustainability during the development of the Terminal B solar project, offered advice for other airports and agencies considering renewables: “There really are a lot of unique opportunities that are available to airports today. To the extent that these airports often are operated by public entities, it really is about bringing that private partner in that can help monetize some of the tax incentives and make the project pencil. That’s something that I think our learnings can be really beneficial toward as we work with our partners at other airports.”
As one piece of the Port Authority’s sustainability initiatives, including specific benchmarks for energy efficiency, water conservation, site selection, material selection, and waste reduction, the solar project contributes to the energy-efficient design and construction of the Terminal B redevelopment project. In 2021, LaGuardia’s Terminal B became the first airport project in the world to achieve LEED V4 Gold certification, and in 2019 it was awarded the first-ever Envision Platinum award for its industry-leading approach to sustainability and resilience.
The Terminal B solar project highlights the value of investing in transportation infrastructure – modernizing airports to better serve communities, reduce fossil fuel dependence, lower air pollution, and mitigate GHG emissions that cause climate change.