One of West Virginia’s largest solar arrays is nearing completion on the roof of one of Yeager Airport’s two long-term parking buildings.
The 1,800-module solar project, being installed by Danhill Construction of Glen Ferris, will feed directly into the parking buildings’ power system when sunlight is sufficient to produce electricity. At night or during periods of inclement weather, the parking buildings will automatically revert to the power grid for electricity
“It should be finished by Wednesday, then it will take a couple of weeks to wire up,” said Yeager Airport Director Terry Sayre. An opening ceremony for the new solar plant is scheduled for Sept. 18.
Yeager officials hope the new solar project, designed and built for about $4 million, will be the first of several for the Charleston airport. Ninety percent of the cost for the first project comes from Federal Aviation Administration discretionary funds, with the state contributing the remaining 10 percent.
“We eventually want to power the whole airport, terminal and all,” using off-grid sources, Sayre said.
In the concept stage is a second solar project that would occupy the roofs of Yeager’s second parking building, as well as its rental car and maintenance structures.
In 2014, Yeager was the finalist for a $15 million solar power grant from the FAA, but the airport was unable to pursue that project while spending the next three years focusing on repairing damage from the March 2015 collapse of its safety overrun area.
The 2014 plan called for a 570 kilowatt array of solar panels on the parking buildings’ roofs, followed by development of a 1.2 megawatt array of solar panels on a 6.5-acre stretch of flat land below runway grade. An even larger array was to have been built later on land adjoining the 6.5-acre site.
A utility corridor built beneath the runway would provide power line access to the 1.2 megawatt solar farm envisioned in the 2014 plan. It would also accommodate a pipe connecting Yeager’s terminal building with two natural gas wells now in production on airport land on a slope overlooking the Elk River.
Yeager Airport receives royalties from the wells, and is also entitled to a volume of free gas from them, once a pipe can be connected between the airport terminal and the wells.
Had Yeager been able to move forward with the $15 million in FAA construction funds it stood to gain in 2014, it would have become the first U.S. airport to operate using only self-produced energy.
That honor went to Tennessee’s Chattanooga Municipal Airport in June, when its 2.64 megawatt solar farm became operational.