Attention FAA: Turn Off the Lights!

Electrical savings are significant wherever efficiencies are practiced, and airports are no exception. I recently wrote to Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) on this subject, after the results of her Government Accountability Office (GAO) commissioned study, published last fall, on the inability of many Americans to consume less electricity in off-peak hours.

02/01/2005


Electrical savings are significant wherever efficiencies are practiced, and airports are no exception. I recently wrote to Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) on this subject, after the results of her Government Accountability Office (GAO) commissioned study, published last fall, on the inability of many Americans to consume less electricity in off-peak hours.

According to the report, "Electricity Markets: Consumers Could Benefit from Demand Programs, but Challenges Remain," the senator noted "billions" could be saved if consumers were given the ability to do so.

But I say let's grow from there. Airports are one of the biggest consumers of unnecessary power, specifically in the illumination of runways during off-hours. By reducing the use of nighttime airside runways, taxiways and approach-aid lighting to a single active runway, cost savings become obvious.

Let me provide a real-world example from a project my firm did at Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC). In implementing the single runway approach, after midnight, when one active runway can safely serve all current or emergency traffic, the FAA is directed to turn off all adjacent runway/taxiway lighting and ground lighting support services. This has resulted in a cost savings of $100,000 a year for SLC.

From an environmental standpoint, SLC's 13-plus hours of reduced nighttime operations has directly resulted in less pollution: 1,200 tons less per year of CO 2 ; 2.5 tons less per year of SO 2 and 0.9 tons less per year of NOx.

The United States has 125 airports with parallel runways similar to SLC. The estimated secondary runway network length is approximately 1,017,327 ft. Thus, the potential energy savings could be $10 million. Now add pollution reduction to the equation of 125 U.S airports with 167 parallel runways similar to SLC. Imagine the savings!

The major issue here is convincing and then retraining FAA officials and all tower operators to turn off the unneeded second parallel lighting.

This is a hard sell. The proposal, for example, was rejected at Orlando International Airport (two 12,000-ft. runways and one 10,000-ft. runway), despite the fact that it was shown that $358,000 in energy costs and 2,600 tons of CO 2 could be saved annually; 5.6 tons per year of SO 2 and 2.3 tons per year of NOx could also be reduced.

So how do we proceed? Maybe we need to get more political. Besides writing Senator Collins, I've also forwarded a similar letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman. Along a similar vein, I've also written to Florida Governor Jeb Bush about applying this concept to interstate lighting.

And of course, there are your airport clients themselves. My point is that engineering consultants can be the drivers and make energy savings happen. Cost savings are obvious and can be directly measured by the owner, and furthermore, can be a continuous incentive for both owners and consultants.



Benefits of reducing overnight runway lighting:*

$100,000 savings in annual energy costs

Reduction of 1,200 tons per year of CO 2

Reduction of 2.5 tons per year of SO 2

Reduction of 0.9 tons per year of NOx

*At Salt Lake City International



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