SOLAR POWER FOR THE NATION’S AIRPORTS

IN the pursuit of environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals, airports face the pivotal challenge of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, which represents a critical milestone in reshaping the aviation industry towards a sustainable future.

This imperative emphasises the urgent need for airports to adopt transformative measures and solidify their role as champions of environmental responsibility.

In light of this, Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) has taken a leap forward to ensure the sustainability of its airports with the implementation of photovoltaic solar power systems.

According to MAHB senior general manager for strategy Megat Ardian Wira Mohd Aminuddin, a total of six of its airports in Malaysia currently have solar power systems installed as part of the organisation’s Environmental Master Plan 2.0.

The use of solar-generated energy has already shown positive results in terms of further cost savings and reduced energy consumption.

“Per year, we save about RM1.46mil due to the use of solar energy, which equates to a 35% increase in savings year-on-year (YoY),” he says. “The electricity generated from the solar panels will cost 30% less than current electricity rates, resulting in potential savings of RM42.7mil for utility operational expenditures for the next 25 years.”

Megat Ardian adds that at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), solar panels have been installed on the roof of Terminal 1’s satellite building and as the parking canopy at the long-term car park. These solar panels are able to generate a total of 14MWp of solar energy.

Other airports under MAHB that have employed the use of photovoltaic solar power systems include Penang International Airport, Langkawi International Airport, Sultan Ahmad Shah Airport in Kuantan, Malacca Airport and Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

Collectively, total solar energy generated across all six airports in 2022 reached 19,122MWh, with a reduction of carbon emissions by 12,219,172.81 tCO2 (total carbon dioxide).

The total solar energy generated by MAHB can be used to power approximately 218,565 10-watt LED light bulbs or 4,615 homes for a year.

Implementation

KLIA’s solar power system has been in place since 2013, conducted through a concessionaire agreement for a period of 21 years under the feed-in-tariff scheme.

Megat Ardian says that there are a number of factors to consider before implementation can commence, such as available space and structural integrity.

“When we look at our airports, we first assess if the roofs of our terminals can support the installation of solar panels. The panels are quite heavy and most of the time, a flat surface is required for them to be installed,” he says.

“Then we look at other buildings, whether it be a car park area, cargo buildings, security buildings – anything that can support the solar panels. Finally, we will look at other pieces of land that we own that are nearby.”

Megat Ardian highlights that MAHB tries to make use of already existing structures for the installation of solar panels to make full use of the space they have.

Maintenance

In terms of maintenance, Megat Ardian shares that MAHB and the solar panel providers constantly monitor the panels’ efficiency in generating electricity.

This is to ensure that the panels can consistently channel energy to KLIA to reduce overall energy consumption.

“We have service-level agreements with the solar panel providers to state the declared solar energy generation performance to ensure that a steady amount of energy is generated,” he says.

“We also monitor the solar panels’ performance via a solar dashboard, where we can view in real-time energy performance, the sun’s radius, and if there are any issues that may arise.

“This is all to ensure that maintenance and performance are always up to scale.”

EV expansion

Megat Ardian says that solar power isn’t the only initiative MAHB is implementing, with the use of electric vehicles (EV) mooted for 2024 as part of the organisation’s electric vehicle transformation plan.

“We are partnering with infrastructure and EV providers for the use of EVs in bringing passengers to and from the airport.

“We plan to have charging stations, parking lots that are more EV-friendly and dedicated pick-up areas for EV vehicles.”

In additional, EVs will be used in airside operations at KLIA, which will involve replacing current diesel-running vehicles with EV to further reduce carbon emissions.

“I think this is where we can have the most value because there are a lot of movements on the airside,” says Megat Ardian.

“Aircraft tugs, baggage tractors – they all run on diesel.

“So, what better way to reduce our carbon emissions effectively than to change all of those vehicles to EVs.”

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