Tucson Airport Solar Parking Canopy Captures Sun And Creates Shade

solar parking canopy at Tucson International Airport
The solar parking canopy at Tucson International Airport offsets about a fifth of the terminal complex’s total power needs.
Photo: Kyocera

The first phase of a 2.5 megawatt solar parking canopy has gone online at the Tucson International Airport in Arizona. The new 1 megawatt photovoltaic array offsets about a fifth of the terminal complex’s total power needs, while making use of otherwise wasted space. Tucson enjoys about 284 days a year of either sunny or partly sunny skies, making it an ideal location for this project.

Part of the airport’s ongoing environmental efforts, the array is being build with $5.7 million in funding awarded by the Federal Aviation Administration and $280,000 contributed by the Arizona Department of Transportation to offset a federal grant matching requirement. This project’s federal grant is part of a program that provides funding for airport projects that promote energy efficiency under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

Collaboration with Natural Power & Energy helped ensure that the system was properly sized for the airport’s power output and glare avoidance requirements. By working closely with Tucson-based contractor Barker-Morrissey Contracting, the Design-Build team was able to meet the tight installation deadlines of the 5-acre first phase with time to spare.

“Airports are an ideal location for solar canopies because of the large amounts of space they can cover, additionally serving as desired shade to cars parked for hours or even days,” said Steve Hill, president of Kyocera Solar, the supplier of the PV panels powering the array. “We are glad to have completed this first phase before the busy travel season; it’s a nice holiday bonus to know that part of the electricity usage in the main terminal is being offset by the parking lot’s large solar array. Kyocera Solar is proud to power this important project in our home state.”

The solar canopy structure is a 20-foot tall curved, open-lattice design comprised exclusively of efficient, durable Kyocera modules that create shade for parking spaces. Vegetated “green walls” are also planned, which will use live plants to create a cooling microclimate effect in the parking area. There is no additional charge for the parking spaces under the solar canopy.

“Kyocera’s responsibilities with every project are to assist throughout the lifecycle of that installation,” Hill stated. “Our technical expertise in addition to our 38 years of high quality module production experience adds value and can help reduce project costs.”

Construction on the main public parking lot began in May 2013, kicking off a three-phase installation expected to be completed in 2 to 3 years. Work has already begun on phase 2 in the remaining 7 acres of the parking area.

Tucson joins Chicago’s Midway as another major airport going green with Kyocera. Midway’s Quick Turn Around rental car washing and refueling facility was outfitted with Kyocera photovoltaic solar modules in October 2013.

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