Photo Terminal Rendering

Borrego To Install Solar Panels at San Diego International Airport

By Roy L Hales

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Someone from Borrego Solar is either flying out from San Diego International Airport (SDIA), or coming through it, two or three times a week. Seventy company employees will be taking off for a meeting in May. Borrego has witnessed the transformation that started in 2008, when San Diego became the first US airport to adopt a formal sustainability policy. Now they will have a part in it. Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. and the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority will develop a 3.3-megawatt (MW) solar system featuring solar panel arrays on the roof of the newly expanded Terminal 2 West.

Borrego Solar will finance and build the system through a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA), which is expected to save the Airport Authority between $3 million and $8 million over the contract period.

“A private investor will pay for the installation and sell the energy it produces to San Diego International Airport at a competitive rate,” a spokesperson from Borrego said. “That is typically less than what they pay per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to their local utility. The SDIA pays nothing up front, they’ll see savings on their energy bill, they’re ‘greening’ their energy mix, and they’ll have insight into what the cost per kWh is over the term of the PPA. To a certain degree, that insulates them from the volatility of the energy market as the cost of electricity trends upwards.”

“PPAs sound too good to be true,” he continued, “but they are indeed a win-win for all parties involved. The system owner/investor gets a return on the investment. San Diego airport obtains solar without making the capital investment. Borrego Solar is paid to design, construct, operate and maintain the project. How is this possible? Because the initial commodity (IE: the energy) that sets this transaction in motion is available for free from the sun!”

“This solar project – the first at the airport – will be a noteworthy and visible highlight of our ongoing commitment to sustainability” said Thella F. Bowens, President and CEO of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.

North Parking Lot

The airport recently went through a $1 billion Green Build terminal expansion. Ten new gates were put in to reduce congestion. A dual-level roadway, separating arrival and departure passengers, was built to reduce traffic. More security lanes were added for improved passenger flow and the concession areas were expanded. Everything is LEED SIlver certified and, through more than 1.4 million kWh recouped by energy efficient solutions, expected to cost $450,000 a year to maintain than a normal building of its calibre.

SDIA also participated in the San Diego Gas &Electric’s Retrocommissioning (RCx) program to update the older terminal and central plant so they were on par with the newly constructed Green Build facilities.

Fourteen electric vehicles were purchased for travel onsite and twenty ev chargers have been installed.

In February 2012, San Diego became the first US commercial airport to install LEDs on its runways, guard lights and airfield signs. This lowered the airport’s electricity costs by $27,000 per month.

That same year it became the first U.S. airport to publish an annual sustainability report based on Global Reporting Initiative guidelines, and in February 2014 San Diego became the first airport to sign the Climate Declaration.

After they decided to install solar panels, SDIA picked Borrego through a competitive bidding process.

It was a good fit. In the three decades since it was founded, Borrego has made 1,000 installations, totaling more than 100 MW and become a national company with offices in San Diego, Oakland, Boston, Austin, and New York. A spokesperson from the airport said they were impressed by Borrego’s track record and the fact they are making airport installations in Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Borrego Solar will start the project in mid-2014 and is expected to finish late this year.

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