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Airports Could Serve As Solar Farms

Ice and Snow caused a canopy covering one of the airport's parking garages to collapse.

The US Department of Agriculture has published a study looking at the feasibility of alternative energy production at airports. The study used 10 airports in Indiana to help determine whether land at smaller airports could be converted to solar farms and biofuels.

Federal regulations require airports to have a certain amount of land surrounding runways for noise control.  USDA Project leader at the national wildlife research center Travis DeVault says his team used information from an earlier study conducted at Purdue University to see exactly how much land was available.

“That study, which investigated land use practices at small airports, that was the only one to our knowledge that had ever been done, so  we were able to use those data from Indiana and use that to forecast our results across the country,” says DeVault.

DeVault says he can’t disclose which airports were used, but he says the data showed there was ample land for solar farms, wind turbines or biofuel crops.

The Indianapolis International Airport has already begun this process. Last year it approved a plan to lease out part of its property to a company for a solar panel farm that will include 41 thousand solar panels on 60 acres.

Tim Method is the director of the Environmental and Conversation Program for the Indianapolis Airport Authority. He says before they started the project, the airport made sure the light wouldn’t cause glares and the panels wouldn’t become a nesting area for birds.

“We’ve been in close communication with both FAA and USDA either on this project or our other projects to make sure as we make land use choices here and pursue development that it is completely compatible with their interests,” Method says. 

The USDA says it is conducting additional research to find out if certain biofuel crops would keep animals like geese away from the runways. The Indianapolis Airport says it is looking into these options as well.


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