Airports are known to be big energy dumps. Especially large international airports consume tremendous amounts of energy. For example, the Heathrow international airport consumed 485,000 MWh of electricity in the year 2016 (1).
Airports serve millions of passengers every year and serve as terminals for hundreds of carriers, and thousands of flights. They are the cornerstones of travel and connectivity around the world. It is important to reduce their carbon footprint.
Boeing, which is perhaps one of the most innovative aerospace companies, has come up with unique technology to turn airports into energy farms.
Boeing has filed a patent application titled “energy harvesting airport”. The patent application relates to a system to capture and harvest energy of the thrust operations of airplanes. Simply put, Boeing intends to use the energy dissipated from airplanes (which is currently lost to the environment) to generate electricity.
The system includes multiple doors in the runway surface of the airport. The doors will open to cavities housing wind turbines, which in turn are connected to electricity generators. When an airplane is about to take-off from the runway, the doors of the cavities will open, and capture the thrust energy expended by the airplane. The blades of the turbines will thus rotate, and lead to the generation of electricity. The turbines may be installed along the length of the complete runway or may be concentrated over a small initial take-off zone, or a landing zone to capture the maximum thrust possible as shown in the figure below.
Upon generation of electricity, the generators may be connected to an electricity distribution grid. The energy distribution grid may be a “local grid serving one or more electrical loads within the airport, or may cover a broader distribution”. The generators may also be connected to batteries, which may be used for the storage of the generated electricity.
Additionally, the runways and other operating surfaces, such as pathways for security vehicle movement in the airport include induction loops. The induction loops are activated by the movement of vehicles, including airplanes, cars, and buses carrying passengers or cargo. The induction loops also generate electricity, as shown in the figure below.
WHAT IS YOUR TAKE?
This system, if implemented, has multiple benefits. This will lead to reduced operating costs of airports worldwide, and increase the operational profits. What do you think about this technology? Let us know in the comments below.
References: Sustainability 2016 Performance Report
Publication Number: US20180226860
Patent Title: Energy Harvesting Airport
Publication date: 2018-08-09
Filing date: 2017-02-06
Inventors: John W. Glatfelter, Stuart A. Galt
Original Assignee: Boeing Co