Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (photo: Port of Seattle)
Sun 18 Jan 2009 – The Port of Seattle Commission has approved funds to design a pre-conditioned air project at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Once installed, it will enable aircraft to shut down their noisy and emissions-inefficient auxiliary power units and use pre-conditioned air supplied at each gate from a central utility plant instead. The project, which will be largely funded by FAA grants, is expected reduce overall emissions by more than 69,000 tonnes per year, savings equal to two percent of the total annual emissions by aircraft at the airport.
The Commission has initially approved $3.77 million for the design, with the total project estimated to cost over $33 million. The FAA grant, through the Voluntary Low Emissions (VALE) Grant Program, is expected to cover nearly $22 million of the cost, the rest will be paid through Airport Development Funds and a cost per enplanement increase to airlines of $0.12. The Commission says this cost will be more than offset by decreased airline operating costs, which could save an estimated $19 million over the life of the project, based on a fuel price of $2 per gallon.
“This investment lowers airline costs and reduces the airport’s environmental footprint,” said Bill Bryant, the Commission’s President. “It is a win-win for us all.”
Complete design is scheduled by January 2010 with the start of construction anticipated in July 2010 and full completion of the project expected by December 2012.
“A centralized pre-conditioned air system is the most cost-effective and energy-efficient long term means of providing pre-conditioned air to gated aircraft,” said Michael Feldman, Sea-Tac Airport Deputy Managing Director of Facilities and Environmental. “The positive effects also include reduced noise from aircraft while they are parked at the gates.”
To provide financial assistance for airports seeking to reduce airport ground greenhouse gas emissions, the US Congress established a voluntary programme in 2003 to reduce such emissions at commercial service airports located in areas failing to meet or maintain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ambient air quality standards. To administer this programme, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), created the Voluntary VALE Program in 2004.
Airports eligible for the programme can fund low-emission projects through two sources of funds administered by the FAA: the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which is a federal grant programme for the planning and development of public use airports, and Passenger Facility Charges (PFC), which airports can collect from passengers to use for eligible airport development projects.
While the number of airports that have undertaken VALE projects is relatively small compared with the number of eligible airports (as of September 2008, nine of the 160 eligible airports have so far initiated a VALE project), the number of participants in the programme is increasing, as is the range and scope of projects being conducted and the amount of money spent on them. The FAA expects participation in VALE to increase as more airports become familiar with the programme.
Last month, Seattle-Tacoma started a pilot programme in which six prime location parking spaces in the Airport Garage have been designated for electric vehicle use and provide free electric charging. The plug-ins consist of standard 120 volt outlets with 20 amps and the spaces – available on a first-come, first-served basis – are designated with green striping.
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