Solar to the fore as Athens Airport announces plan for net zero carbon ground operations by 2025

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Athens International Airport (AIA) will make significant use of solar as it aims to become Europe’s first to generate zero carbon from its ground-based operations, according to chief executive Yiannis Paraschis.

The CEO announced the pledge to secure carbon-neutral operations by 2025 at the airport’s seventh annual Airport Chief Executives’ Symposium event in Athens, having signed the commitment with Olivier Jankovec, director general of the Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe).

The historic ‘Route 2025’ commitment – which does not encompass carbon emissions caused by airplane flights or passenger car travel associated with them – aims to meet all of the airport’s electricity needs from renewable energy and storage as well as finding sustainable alternatives to the complex’s other fuel consumption requirements.

The airport will submit two plans as part of the initiative. The first will concern the development of on-site solar power generation and energy storage facilities to meet the international airport’s electricity demand – which makes up 91.1% of AIA’s current carbon footprint. The second part of the plan will concern the contribution measures such as electric vehicles, biofuel and heat pumps can make to reducing the remaining carbon emissions generated by operations.

A solar PV first

A plan described as “ambitious but feasible” by Paraschis is the boldest spelled out by a European airport and offers much more ambition than the 2050 deadline suggested by rival operations at the 29th ACI Europe Congress held in Limassol, Cyprus in June.

AIA already has an 8 MW solar project, which generates around 13 GWh per year to provide around a quarter of the complex’s electricity needs and 13% of its energy requirement, an airport spokesperson told pv magazine.

That electricity requirement has grown as passenger numbers at the only airport serving the Greek capital have soared from 12.5 million in 2013 to 25.5 million at present.

In September, Greece pledged to phase out coal from its electricity system by 2028 and a few days ago the government published a national energy plan steering the country’s energy policy over the next decade. The new strategy foresees 5 GW of solar capacity additions by 2030, on top of the 2.7 GW already installed in the nation.