Airport Green Programs Expanding

Ground transportation companies stay tuned on airport administration trends. In Europe and the U.S., airports are expanding green programs. Here are some highlights from ClimateWire’s story:

SITGES, Spain — While the world continues to complain about one kind of pollution from airports — noise — there has been some major progress in reducing their climate-related emissions.

From eco-taxis to biofueled buses to heating systems run on wood chips, a number of European (and American) airports have been implementing innovative plans to deal with climate change in their land-based activities.

A group of researchers from the Central European Institute of Technology (CEIT), an Austria-based research and development center, reported on their progress as part of a study financed by the Austrian ministry for transport.

Last year, the 440 airports that are members of Airports Council International Europe, or ACI Europe, pledged to reduce the climate impact of their activities and to try to go carbon neutral. Austria’s CEIT researchers have been trying to take a holistic view of how the airports’ efforts fit in with regional transportation plans.

The Stockholm airport is serviced by a fleet of “eco-taxis” — hybrids or renewable fuel-powered cars — which run on lines outside the terminals that are separate from those used by ordinary taxis. According to the Austrian report, 35 percent of all taxis at the airport are now eco-taxis, representing an estimated reduction of 3,770 metric tons of CO2 for 2007.

The Stockholm airport is also serviced by two local bus companies that use locally produced diesel fuel made from rapeseed. A similar effort is being made at the airfield level. A policy states that new vehicles operating at Stockholm-Arlanda must be environmentally clean vehicles, and last year, the airport initiated a project to have 100-percent-clean vehicles and ensure the supply of biofuels for vehicles operating within the airport by 2012.

“The result is a growing fleet of cars and buses that run on renewable fuels,” reads the report. “Each biogas-powered bus saves approximately 50 metric tons of CO2 annually. If all vehicles and machinery are de-fossilized by 2012, the emissions from ground-service equipment and other vehicles will be cut by about 6,000 metric tons annually.”

As for U.S. airports, the Austrian researchers note that Oregon’s Portland International Airport has begun replacing its fleet of ground-support vehicles with alternative-fuel vehicles. They also mention that Los Angeles International Airport has built the first airport-based retail hydrogen-fueling and generation station.

Boston’s Logan International Airport is also mentioned in the report, for setting aside approximately 100 parking spaces for hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles as part of 2007 Earth Day celebrations. There is a fundamental difference in approach, however, between most European airports and U.S. airports such as Washington Dulles: Isn Europe, priority has traditionally been given to public transportation, particularly trains, from cities to airports.

Several European airports, such as Athens, Hamburg, Linz, London Heathrow and Paris Orly, do provide carpooling or car-sharing services for passengers, airlines and airport staff. At Heathrow, more than 6,000 people from 300 airport companies are members of the car-sharing program — the largest such scheme in Europe — operated by BAA, the airport’s owner.

Aside from on-ground transportation, Europe’s airports are adopting a variety of other CO2-reducing techniques, many of which also cut operational costs. According to the CEIT study, the LFV Group — the authority responsible for operating Sweden’s airports — cools its buildings at Stockholm-Arlanda largely with water from a nearby lake, enabling the airport to reduce the number of its cooling units.

Furthermore, the heating system at the Stockholm airport relies mainly on burning wood pellets. These have allowed the airport to reduce its annual CO2 emissions by approximately 94 percent since 1990 (from 16,000 to 1,000 metric tons).

Like U.S. airports such as San Francisco, various European airports — Zurich, Munich, Paris Orly, Rome, Salzburg and Stuttgart — have taken advantage of their vast stretches of terminal and hangar rooftops to install solar panels.

These airports, according to Eizinger, produce solar energy for their own use or put some of their solar-produced electricity into local grids for use by households in the region, or do both.

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