Powering Belfast International Airport with Solar

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Overview

Lightsource Renewable Energy, Europe’s leading solar energy company, signed a 25-year private wire power purchase agreement (PPA) with Belfast International Airport, providing electricity from the largest solar project to connect to a UK airport.

Lightsource funded, planned, developed, connected and now manage a 5MWp (Megawatt peak) off-site solar farm into the Belfast International Airport private network – providing 27% of the airport’s annual electricity demand.

Challenges & Actions

By hard-wiring the solar farm directly into the airport, Lightsource provides the airport with a source of locally generated renewable electricity, reduced energy costs and a boost to their green credentials – with a saving of 2,345 tonnes of carbon emission each year.

Through its PPA offering, Lightsource is able to finance and develop utility-scale solar and energy storage solutions using land near to site – connecting them directly into the supply of major energy users such as factories, warehouses, data centres, transport hubs, leisure centres, chemical plants and water treatment facilities.

A private-wire PPA can help businesses reduce exposure to energy market volatility and supports load shifting to avoid peak pricing by giving access to clean power at below the cost of importing power from the grid. Having power supplied from a local off-site solar installation also creates excellent sustainability opportunities by helping businesses meet carbon reduction targets.

In 2017 non-commodity charges (those costs over and above the wholesale price of the electricity) have become the largest proportion of the cost of delivered electricity for most Made up of government scheme charges, such as the Renewable Obligation and the capacity mechanism, along with growing transmission and distribution costs, non-commodity charges are set to continue to increase substantially — by as much as 3p/kWh.

The Northern Ireland Executives’ target is to meet 40% of its energy demand from renewable sources by 2020 and large-scale solar farms like the Crookedstone development will play a key role in NI’s overall energy mix, by providing a predictable and reliable source of energy. This balance of renewable energy mix is crucial to ensuring security of supply for the whole of Ireland.

Lessons & Results

Belfast International Airport has revealed it has achieved more than £100,000 in savings since the solar farm was connected just ten months ago. The installation is set to save 2,345 tonnes of carbon emissions each year – equivalent to taking 469 cars off the road.

Renewable energy also presents huge opportunity for local investment with the Crookedstone project representing an investment of more than £5million into the local economy – including use of local contractors and services. In addition, the Crookedstone site also helps to increase local biodiversity levels. Lightsource worked closely with ecologists throughout the planning stages to create a tailored environmental plan for the new solar farm. The site features new planting of native hedgerow, wildflowers and the installation of bird and bat nesting boxes around the site. The net outcome is a site in which a diverse range of flaura and fauna can thrive.

The solar farm generates more than a quarter of Belfast International’s annual electricity needs, and has reportedly enabled the airport to run on solar power alone for nine hours at certain peak generation times.

Belfast International Airport operations director Alan Whiteside said:

The solar farm project has exceeded all expectations. From switch-on in March to the end of the year, the 'ballpark' savings were over £100,000.

The project is consistently delivering a reliable 'green' and cost-saving energy supply for the airport. No other airport in either the rest of the UK or Ireland has a similar energy source and we're delighted with its operation."

Lightsource chief executive Nick Boyle said:

We are really thrilled that Belfast International Airport are being rewarded for the vision that they showed in switching to solar energy with Lightsource. We worked hand in hand with the team at Belfast to deliver a project which would meet their needs.

Not only has this project significantly reduced their emissions, it has significantly improved their bottom line. That’s the benefit that a Lightsource private wire agreement can deliver for a business.”

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