With more than a year of construction under its belt, the Pittsburgh International Airport is well on the way to a bright future with its Terminal Modernization Program. The project started in October 2021 and multiple phases have been completed since then including important prep work, site excavation, electrical installations, concrete pouring, and much more. It has been big news for the region for some time, but many don’t know this fun fact about PIT: it’s powered by natural gas and solar energy.

The innovative power grid uses natural gas and solar energy together to make PIT one of the most resilient airports in the world. Energy reliability and stability are what many airports are in need of after high-profile power outages previously caused thousands of flights to become grounded.

Pittsburgh International Airport natural gas and solar Microgrid

“PIT is now one of the most site-hardened public facilities in the world while at the same time becoming more sustainable. That’s a tribute to the innovative culture of our team, and we hope this project can be a model across the industry,” said Pittsburgh International Airport CEO Christina Cassotis.

Through a 2019 contract between the Allegheny County Airport Authority Board of Directors and Peoples Natural Gas, the microgrid will be maintained and operated at no cost to the airport as long as it purchases its electricity from the grid. This deal ensures power stability while achieving savings on electricity costs for the airport and its tenants. 

At full capacity, more than 9,000 solar panels provide 3 megawatts of electricity, while the natural gas power plant on site provides up to 21 megawatts. The power generated by the new grid supplies the terminal, airfield, Hyatt Hotel and Sunoco.

Pittsburgh Airport’s Terminal Modernization Program will create one of the smartest airports in the world for travelers to and from the region. By relying on the natural resources directly above and below their property, this new smart energy infrastructure is a great start for the project. 

The use of natural gas for airports is an ideal way to ensure a reliable power source while striving for sustainability goals. Denver’s airport has been using CNG for years to power its on-site vehicle fleet. In 2013, it was estimated that this fleet prevented 3,347,600 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. The vehicles are especially useful in protecting the air quality in the airport’s underground baggage tunnel.

Across the country, airports are looking for new ways to ensure power resiliency and reliability while also endeavoring to reduce their carbon footprint. Natural gas could very well be the key to unlocking both.