Ar­riv­ing at OIA, so­lar power plan

Idea is to pre­vent out­ages like one that hit At­lanta air­port last year.

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Spear ks­pear@or­lan­dosen­tinel.com

Or­lando’s util­ity is ne­go­ti­at­ing a nearly $60 mil­lion con­tract that would pro­vide the city’s air­port with its first so­lar pan­els and with emergency power to pre­vent out­ages like the one that par­a­lyzed At­lanta’s air­port late last year.

The so­lar pan­els would pro­vide one of the na­tion’s largest air­ports with its first sig­nif­i­cant step to­ward catch­ing up with other air­ports al­ready harnessing the sun’s en­ergy.

Or­lando Mayor Buddy Dyer said he suf­fers so­lar envy when trav­el­ing to Den­ver’s air­port where he has to “drive past all those so­lar pan­els.”

The pend­ing agree­ment stands po­ten­tially to in­stall $500,000 worth of float­ing so­lar pan­els on ponds be­neath the tracks of air­port shut­tle trains.

More than 40 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year “will get the idea that we are pretty sus­tain­able,” Dyer said.

Emergency power would in­clude a gen­er­a­tor able to pro­vide as much as 24 megawatts, or enough elec­tric­ity for thou­sands of homes. Or­lando Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion would in­stall the wires and switches for that power and pro­vide a max­i­mum 30-minute re­sponse for out­ages at the air­port.

“We re­ally started think­ing about this re­la­tion­ship when At­lanta lost power,” Or­lando International Air­port di­rec­tor Phil Brown said.

That out­age caused by an equip­ment fail­ure in De­cem­ber trapped pas­sen­gers in air­planes for hours, can­celed hun­dreds of flights and took days to re­cover from.

The city of Or­lando owns the air­port and util­ity but they are sep­a­rate from city hall and op­er­ate un­der un­re­lated man­age­ment and gov­ern­ing boards. OUC is to con­sider the pro­posed deal next month. A date for fi­nal ap­proval by ei­ther the air­port or util­ity has not been set.

The deal would ap­ply to the air­port’s new ter­mi­nal now un­der con­struc­tion and an ad­join­ing train sta­tion that is open but uti­lized so far only by air­port shut­tles. Other com­po­nents in the ven­ture would be a sup­ply of chilled wa­ter for air con­di­tion­ing, 67 charg­ing sta­tions for elec­tric ve­hi­cles and en­ergy-plan­ning ser­vices.

OUC’s gen­eral man­ager, Clint Bul­lock, said the emer­gen­cy­power sys­tem will re­sem­ble com­po­nents of the elec­tric net­work and 12,000-volt wires that serve much of Or­lando.

“Our line­men are trained to han­dle that volt­age and do it on a daily ba­sis,” Bul­lock said. “That’s the back­bone of OUC’s sys­tem.”

An­other ad­van­tage, Bul­lock said, is the air­port’s prox­im­ity to OUC crews and sup­plies.

“We are go­ing to have the equip­ment – the trans­form­ers and the switch gear – that if some­thing were to hap­pen, they are less than 5 miles away,” Bul­lock said.

“I’ll tell you that some of those other con­trac­tors, that’s a ser­vice they are not able to of­fer,” Bul­lock said.

KEVIN SPEAR/OR­LANDO SEN­TINEL

A demon­stra­tion of float­ing so­lar in­stalled in Or­lando by OUC.

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