Glasgow Airport to build major new onsite solar array

Ground has this week been broken for a new onsite solar farm at Glasgow Airport, which is due to come online next year and be the largest in Scotland's aviation sector.

Glasgow Airport to build major new onsite solar array

Image: AGS Airports

The Airport’s operating firm, AGS Airports, announced this week that it is working with energy consultancy and co-developer Ikigai to develop a 15MW ground-mounted solar farm on the Glasgow Airport estate.

The solar farm will cover around 30 acres and, subject to planning approval, could come online in 2023. Planning documents have not yet been listed on the online planning portal for Renfrewshire Council.

“All of our electricity is already purchased from 100% renewable sources and has been since 2018,” said AGS Airports’ chief executive Derek Provan. “However, the creation of the solar farm at Glasgow Airport will allow us to become self-sustaining by generating enough clean energy for both the airport and our neighbours.”

AGS Airports is one of many companies seeking to improve their renewable energy approach by shifting from tariffs to onsite generation – the former does not guarantee additionality, while the latter does. According to the Climate Group’s latest data on its RE100 initiative, which sees businesses pledging to source 100% renewable electricity, onsite generation rose year-on-year in 2021 despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Indeed, the news from AGS comes in the same week that the University of Surrey confirmed that it will work with SSE Energy Solutions to develop a new onsite solar array.

AGS Airports notably announced a net-zero target for its Scope 1 (direct) and 2 (power-related) emissions, deadlined at the mid-2030s, last summer. The UK Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan was subsequently published, requiring all airports to reach net-zero operational emissions before 2040.

Since announcing its net-zero target, AGS Airports has developed plans for using Internet of Things (IoT) services to reduce its overall energy consumption and has co-formed a Scottish Wind Energy Consortium with the University of Strathclyde and energy engineering start-up Katrick Technologies. It has also begun switching runway lights for energy-efficient LEDs and started drawing up plans to install electric vehicle (EV) charging points and to transition its fleet to EVs and other ultra-low-emission vehicles.

AGS Airports has already invested in carbon measurement and offsetting to the extent that all three of its airports are certified as carbon neutral in operation. However, meeting net-zero will require deeper direct cuts to emissions.

Provan added: “There will be additional demand due to the electrification of operational vehicles, taxis, rental cars and we will also launch a green car scheme to support our staff to switch to EVs. All of this will require electric vehicle charging infrastructure. We need to anticipate these changes and the steps we are taking today will ensure we can meet both the demands of the future and our net-zero targets.”

Work notably began to deliver a regeneration plan for the Glasgow Airport Investment Area in 2019.

Emissions from flights

AGS Airports, like all UK airport operators, is under mounting pressure to clarify how it plans to reduce emissions from flights – which fall under Scope 3 (indirect) emissions – as well as their operational emissions, in line with net-zero.

It is yet to announce a Scope 3 emissions target as a standalone, but is supporting the Decarbonisation Roadmap developed by industry body Sustainable Aviation. Updated last June, the Roadmap sets targets for members to reduce absolute net emissions from flights by at least 15% by 2030 and 40% by 2040.  Sustainable Aviation, which has been influential in shaping Government policy, is advocating against stopping airport expansion or capping growth in passenger numbers and for solutions including sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). Some green groups have said Sustainable Aviation’s approach is contrary to that recommended by the Government’s own advisory body, the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

The Transport Decarbonisation Plan mandates that UK airports achieve net-zero domestic flights by 2040 and net-zero international flights by 2050.

Sarah George

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