Fresno-Yosemite Airport Going Green

July 17, 2008 12:48:23 PM PDT
Fresno-Yosemite International is attracting national attention by Going "Green," the original idea was to put just a few solar panels atop the roof of the planned rental car expansion.But FYI is now home to the largest solar installation of any airport in the U.S.

Arriving passengers already notice the solar panels which power the airport a half-mile away. They cover an area the size of seven football fields. This old Ag land is now being used to farm the sun's rays.

Alan Autry, Fresno Mayor: "So you take land that's basically idle and useless and turning it into 11-million dollars worth of taxpayer's savings, that's a good day for Fresno."

This 2 mega-watt solar farm has been generating electricity for the past month. It runs everything from airport lighting to tower communications.

Russ Widmar, FYI Aviation Director "This will for us produce about 40-percent of our annual electrical requirement."

Widmar credits City Councilman Henry T Perea for pushing the solar plan, which he says will help clean the Valley air.

"Just on the air quality side, 170,000 barrels of fossil fuel a year that we will not use."

The city donated the 20 acres where the project sits but didn't have to put any money up front.

Frank Smith, Worldwater and Solar CEO: "We were paid, Worldwater and Solar Technologies, 16-million dollars but we weren't paid by the airport. We were paid by a third party financial firm. They will then sell the power to the airport at a fixed rate for the next 20 years."

So the airport won't be affected by rising energy prices during that time. The cost is further offset by a five and a half million dollar rebate by PG&E.

Greg Pruett, PG&E Corporate Relations VP: "It is really a pioneering, cutting-edge project. It puts really Fresno out in front of most other municipalities in being leading in embracing renewables."

Mayor Autry says it was important Fresno lead the push for alternative energy use.

"All of these so-called little bits that people are doing around the country are gonna add up to a whole lot in terms of our dependence on foreign oil."

As a result of the FYI project, the company responsible is now working on a similar but smaller solar system at Denver's airport.
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