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Pittsburgh International Airport might use natural gas to generate power

| Friday, March 9, 2018, 4:03 p.m.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority is exploring the idea of building a natural gas microgrid to power Pittsburgh International Airport and the manufacturing companies on its property.

The microgrid would become the airport's main energy source, replacing the power it buys from Duquesne Light, said Christina Cassotis, authority CEO.

“The grid would provide energy at the airport powered by natural gas, which also benefits the industry that happens to be right here on our property, so it benefits us,” Cassotis said, referencing Consol Energy, now known as CNX Resources Corp., which extracts natural gas from well pads on airport land.

The airport would switch to the microgrid system only if it would be less expensive than its current service, Cassotis said Friday.

Airport officials are hoping the microgrid would help attract more advanced manufacturing companies to airport property.

“We have a lot of land to develop and we're looking at this as part of a whole program that allows us to cut our costs in a sustainable manner,” Cassotis said.

In addition to the microgrid, the system would also include access to a power grid that would be used in emergencies, Cassotis said.

“If you remember what happened in Atlanta when they lost power, we wouldn't have that problem,” Cassotis said, referencing the power outage at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International in December.

The airport has issued a request for qualifications from firms interested in doing the work.

So far, 60 firms have submitted qualifications. The deadline is March 30.

Cassotis plans to enter into a public-private partnership contract by September for the work, she said.

Beyond that, a timeline has not yet been set for construction, and a cost estimate is not yet available.

Humboldt County regional airport in McKinleyville, Calif., recently announced plans to build a 9-acre solar microgrid for $9 million, a newspaper there reported. Solar energy could be a source of power for the microgrid, as well, Cassotis said.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669, or via Twitter @tclift.

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