With the sun beating down and airplanes flying in and out of Dulles International Airport, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Dominion Energy broke ground Tuesday on a huge solar farm that will be built on 835 acres of the 12,000-acre airport.
“We’re about to break ground on what will be the largest renewable energy project ever built on a U.S. airport. When it’s completed, this transformational project will provide clean energy to more than 37,000 homes and businesses, and I’m thrilled at the innovative, first-of-its-kind agreement that we’ve reached with MWAA that will further advance renewable energy and clean transportation,” Ed Baine, president of Dominion Energy in Virginia, says during the airport event.
The 200,000 solar arrays will be on land in the airport’s southwest corner between an existing runway and a future runway, says Andrew Ndolo, MWAA airport planner and planning department supervisor. The authority oversees both Dulles and Reagan National airports.
“The solar energy lets us use land between the runways, so there is space for that fifth runway and it’s coming,” Jack Potter, president and CEO of MWAA, says, adding there’s not other use for the land, other than “to produce clean electricity for the region.”
“This is the first project, the first solar project, we have developed at an airport,” says Aaron Ruby, spokesman for Dominion Energy.
To put the size of the project in perspective, Reagan National Airport is 860 acres, with 733 acres on land and 127 underwater. “This solar farm will be the size of National Airport, plus 100 acres on top of that,” says Ndolo.
Dominion Energy will lease the land, which will generate up to 100 megawatts of solar energy. An additional 50 megawatts will be stored in a battery facility at the airport. The electricity will be transmitted back to the electrical grid.
“First and foremost, this is clean energy for Northern Virginia customers. No. 2, the project is going to create more than 300 construction jobs. No. 3, it’s going to generate about $200 million of spending in the local economy. This is spending on materials, equipment, supplies, labor, all of the costs that you would typically associate with a major construction project,” Ruby says.
In addition to the solar farm, Dominion Energy will develop two, 1-megawatt solar carports for Dulles and provide the airport with 18 electric transit buses, 50 electric fleet vehicles, and electric charging infrastructure.
Ndolo says the buses will replace some of the airport’s older buses and help reduce emissions. Overall, he says the solar project “shows our commitment toward the environment and positions Dulles as a leader in sustainable energy.”
“Millions of travelers flying in and out of Dulles every year we’ll see this powerful symbol of the clean energy transition,” Bob Blue, president, chair, and CEO of Dominion Energy, told the crowd of several hundred people gathered next to an airport runway. “Not only will this be the largest solar project ever developed at a U.S. airport, it also demonstrates how the public and private sectors can join forces to create innovative new models for clean energy and clean transportation in major metropolitan areas, all while boosting area economies.
“This project is a symbol of our commitment to helping Virginia achieve its clean energy goals and our own commitment to achieving net zero emissions.”
“It is a fantastic project,” says Loudoun County Board of Supervisors chair Phyllis Randall. “The fact that we have now what will be the largest largest solar facility at an airport anywhere is pretty impressive. Climate change is real, and we have to find ways to have sustainable energy if we’re going to have an earth for our children and for our grandchildren.”
In 2024, the project is projected to generate new tax revenue of at least $500,000 for Loudoun County. Construction firm Black & Veatch is expected to complete the work in late 2026.
“The bigger impact is the fact that we will have this solar facility, and I really do hope that other airports, take a look at it and look at the land around their airport and realize that this is a great thing to do at the airport,” Randall says.
Feature image by Colleen Kelleher
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