Nick Schmidt, Chief Technology Officer at Blueprint Power, recently offered some perspectives on their services and technology platform as well as the topic of decarbonization in the aviation industry.
Check out our question-and-answer session with Nick Schmidt below.
Avionics: How does the Blueprint Power platform work?
Nick Schmidt: We think of airports as “mini cities,” given the number and variety of buildings and transportation operating at airports. Blueprint Power combines its “in-building data analytics” platform with energy advisory expertise to help airport and building operators harness the surplus energy in their buildings to generate new cash flows and help fund carbon reduction and energy resilience goals. We work with customers to identify existing flexible energy capacity, add new capacity, optimize its use, and connect it to energy markets that pay for flexible capacity. Many operators don’t realize that they have options to generate economic, decarbonization, and resiliency benefits at the same time. We can help them implement an approach that aligns with the airport’s preferred combination of goals and adapt it as business needs, energy and regulatory markets change.
What sustainable solutions have been created to reduce emissions at airports?
Schmidt: Airports have good, practical options to reduce emissions for both on-ground and in-air operations.
On-ground solutions primarily reduce emissions by optimizing energy consumption and resiliency for airport buildings and by electrifying vehicle fleets that operate around airports. Airports should first get a good assessment of how much flexible energy capacity they have onsite, so they know where to adjust consumption (to reduce emissions and save money) without affecting operations and where to enroll flexible capacity in local electrical grid programs that pay for it.
Airports can also add distributed energy resources, such as wind, batteries, and solar (subject to U.S. FAA rules and similar on placement to prevent glare), to produce and store clean electricity onsite. This can improve energy and energy cost resiliency by reducing reliance on the electrical grid, generating cleaner energy for operations, and increasing flexible energy capacity that may make airports eligible for new revenue streams. Airports can electrify building systems, such as heat pumps and chillers, to reduce emissions.
They can also add sub-metering with onsite restaurants, hotels, retail stores, and more, which gets these tenants more involved in reducing energy use. Additionally, airports can electrify fleets and add EV charging stations to reduce emissions from their fleets and those of third parties operating at the airport. Airside fleets can take advantage of green/renewable diesel as an intermediate step before full transition to electric vehicles.
In-air solutions address emissions caused by airplanes burning jet fuel. Using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in airplanes can significantly reduce CO2 emissions over the fuel lifecycle.
What are some of the long-term solutions being developed to help airports in their efforts to achieve carbon neutrality?
Embedding sustainability into regular operations is good for business. Blueprint Power recommends a staged approach to implementation, so airports can start to reduce emissions fairly quickly and generate value from existing flexible energy capacity to help fund long-term solutions. An essential starting point: airports must be able to monitor building energy consumption at a more detailed, real-time level, so they can manage and adjust it over time to help future-proof their carbon reduction measures. Adding more sophisticated metering and building management technologies can help with this.
Installing distributed energy resources, like solar, wind, and batteries, is a great win because they provide long-term solutions for increasing energy resiliency, reducing carbon emissions, and potentially creating new cash flows for the airport—all at the same time. Electric vehicle support is valuable for emissions reduction and future-proofing as EVs become more commonplace. SAF can also support long-term emissions reduction.
What milestones could be achieved this year?
The international aviation industry is committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has launched programs for its airline, airport, and ground service provider constituents to support wide adoption of sustainability practices.
In the more immediate future, 2023 should be an important year for transforming policy into action. The U.S. Inflation Reduction Act offers significant financial incentives for states that move quickly on clean energy initiatives. Cities and states, such as New York and California, are increasingly passing legislation that mandates carbon emissions reduction and increased use of electric vehicles. New York City’s Local Law 97 emissions limits kick-in in 2024, for example.
Airports should frontrun building and fleet electrification and optimization projects to take advantage of these unprecedented clean energy incentives, get ahead of local emissions penalties that are coming into play, and secure resources before an influx of late adopters compound supply chain woes.
As electrification increases, electrical grids will become even more constrained. Energy resiliency is becoming a major economic and operational issue, and airports can mitigate constraints and strengthen operations with solutions that enable smarter energy management and onsite renewable energy generation.
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