Scottish EU-funded project launched that will help remote and rural airports to reduce their carbon footprint
FlyBe aircraft lands on the Scottish island of Barra (photo: HIAL)
Thu 5 Nov 2015 – A three-year, €2.4 million ($2.6m) project has been launched in Scotland to heighten awareness of the importance to rural and remote communities of local air services and to use innovative technologies to make them as cost effective and environmentally friendly as possible. The Smart Peripheral and Remote Airports 2020 (SPARA 2020) project will include two work strands to foster more sustainable energy use at airports in the Scottish Highlands and Islands region to include electric vehicle surface access and the possibility of offering biofuels to airlines serving those airports. The project is part of the EU’s Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme (NPAP) with funding of €1.5 million coming from a grant from the European Regional Development Fund. The NPAP aims to help peripheral and remote communities on the northern margins of Europe to develop their economic, social and environmental potential.
The SPARA project will bring together a range of public authorities, academic institutions, airports, small businesses and specialists to focus on the particular challenges of airports in remote and peripheral areas, and to assist them in the use of new technologies. The lead in the project is HITRANS, the transport partnership representing local councils in the Highlands and Islands region, with other partners coming from Scotland, Sweden, Ireland, Norway and Australia.
Scottish partners include the University of Highlands and Islands and Robert Gordon University, whilst Sweden is represented by the Swedish Transport Administration, Sundsvall Timrå Airport and Storuman Municipality. The North West Regional Assembly of Ireland will represent airports such as Donegal and Ireland West (Knock) in the project, with Molde University in Norway and the University of Sydney the remaining partners.
The initiative was launched at Inverness Airport by Derek Mackay, Scottish Minister for Transport and the Islands. “Air services have a vital role to play for remote communities across Scotland so this project, looking at how we can help develop our airports in remote and rural areas, is very welcome,” he said. “The focus on improving performance and making them more cost effective is incredibly important as we look to continue to provide the best possible service to communities that depend on these transport links. The project will also look at how we make remote and rural airports more environmentally friendly, investigating new and innovative measures to reduce their carbon footprint.”
Low-carbon fuel airport surface access demonstrator trials are being developed by HITRANS in partnership with member councils, the Energy Savings Trust and Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL), which operates and manages 11 airports in the region. This is aimed at decarbonising links from the airport to its local population centres and is hoped to include support for electric bus operation, EV car hire and electric/hybrid taxis.
The business case for offering biofuels to incoming aircraft at the region’s airports will be examined in some detail, learning from pioneering work at Karlstad Airport in Sweden, says HITRANS. Last year, Karlstad was chosen as the location for Sweden’s first ‘bioport’ by sustainable jet fuel supplier SkyNRG and aviation fuel supplier Statoil (see article).
The SPARA project also intends to examine the distinct socio-economic role that airports play in the Northern Periphery and Arctic area and also to refine and improve economic impact assessment methodologies of those airports with a view to better guide future public investment.
The NPAP comprises nine partner countries that include EU member states Finland, Ireland, Sweden and the UK (Scotland and Northern Ireland), along with the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Norway. Despite geographical differences, the large area shares a number of common features, such as low population density, low accessibility, low economic diversity, abundant natural resources and a high potential impact from climate change. This combination results in joint challenges and opportunities that can best be overcome and realised by transnational cooperation, says the programme.