Edinburgh Airport’s solar sustainability solution

Flying is known to be one of the highest polluting modes of transport. Edinburgh Airport is playing its part in reducing the airline industry’s carbon footprint with a plan to develop a solar farm to provide 26% of its energy needs and assist it on its journey to becoming carbon neutral. Frankie Youd profiles the project and details the airport’s new sustainability strategy.

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The effects of climate change and increasing levels of greenhouse gases are frequently seen on newspaper front pages and are a topic high on the agenda for government bodies worldwide.

The global aviation industry produces around 2% of all human-induced CO2 emissions, according to data by the Air Transport Action Group, so frequently finds itself in the spotlight to mitigate its environmental impact.

Some airlines and airports are investing in alternative fuels, including Edinburgh Airport, which has set its sights on creating an eleven-acre solar farm next year. The announcement came on 23 June, the same day the airport announced its ‘Greater Good’ sustainability strategy.

Scotland’s solar solution

Located in the Ingliston area, Edinburgh Airport is Scotland’s second busiest airport and the UK’s sixth busiest. The airport reported a record 14.7 million passengers in 2019, which was also a record year for every airport in Scotland.

It’s not just impressive passenger numbers that the airport can boast about, however. Its environmental focus will see the airport taking notable steps towards reducing its environmental impact.

The construction of the solar farm is set to be the first of its kind at a Scottish airport and will provide 26% of the airport’s energy requirements. Construction is expected to commence later this year with hopes of it being operational in summer 2022, with £2m funding provided by the Scottish Government.

This project illustrates our commitment to making environmental improvements and is something passengers will actually be able to see as they arrive or depart.

The solar farm will be located next to the end of the runway on the western end of the airport and is one part of a five-stage strategy laid out by the airport which sets out how the airport will achieve a more sustainable, environmentally beneficial future.

In a press release Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport said: “We are excited to be the UK’s first airport to construct a solar farm on an airfield. Some may doubt the power of the sun in Scotland, but our solar farm will deliver around 26% of our energy needs and allow us to deliver energy back into the grid when we produce more than we need.

“This project illustrates our commitment to making environmental improvements and is something passengers will actually be able to see as they arrive or depart. We want to be a leading voice and advocate for a new and improved approach.”


The Greater Good strategy

The airport’s ‘Greater Good strategy’ sets out how the airport will work towards a more sustainable future, which will not only depend on reducing the airport’s environmental impacts, such as its CO2 emissions, but will also focus on how the airport manages and enhances its economic and social impacts.

The strategy focuses on four key areas, or pillars, to help to achieve its sustainable future goal:

Zero Carbon
This section of the strategy will see the airport working in partnership to improve its overall approach to climate change and reduce its emission levels of CO2, NOX, SOX and other harmful gasses.

Enhancing Scotland
The strategy not only focuses on the airport’s environmental impact but also its social footprint as well. ‘Enhancing Scotland’ aims to create an airport experience that showcases the best that Scotland has to offer, while also providing the best passenger experience possible.

Trusted Neighbour
The ‘Trusted Neighbour’ section will see the airport working with neighbouring communities and areas to share and discuss the benefits of sustainable growth. They will discuss and negative impacts and plans to mitigate their effects.

Scotland’s Best Business
In this section, the airport aims to work with its people, partners, and passengers to create a business with integrity, striving towards its goals and targets.

Strategy targets

The strategy also sets out targets for the airport to achieve, such as achieving carbon neutrality for direct emissions by 2024. The strategy also aims to establish an airport-wide sustainability standard, as well as a cleaner engine standard.

Paired with the pillars of focus and targets, the strategy highlights the work that has already been carried out by the airport to work towards a more sustainable future. Since 2018, the airport has purchased 100% renewable electricity and diverted all waste away from landfill.

Our operations are already carbon neutral and while we are proud of that, we know there is more to do.

Commenting on the strategy in a press release, Dewar said: “Our sustainability strategy is about more than just carbon, it’s about making our business Scotland’s gateway to the world, sustainable and a social and economic asset that serves future generations. Our operations are already carbon neutral and while we are proud of that, we know there is more to do for the greater good of Scotland.

“For an island economy, travel is an important reality, and we need to have a sensible conversation about how to balance the desire and need to travel in the wake of the pandemic and making our industry cleaner and greener. It’s a challenge for all sectors but particularly for ours.

“A sustainable future is what we all want. We’re excited to get started on that path with the ambitious actions and targets set out in Greater Good.”

With the airport’s detailed strategy, paired with the exciting development plans for the solar farm, Edinburgh Airport is on the correct flight path to an increasingly sustainable future.