Houston Airport Receives Grant, Will Tackle Emissions

Mayor Bill White and the Houston Airport System (HAS) announced on August 25 that the City of Houston Department of Aviation has received $8.8 million in grants from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to install new state-of-the-art equipment at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) that is expected to reduce emissions by up to 60%.

The two grants awarded through the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP) will allow for the purchase and installation of new solar panels, heaters, and chillers in the airport’s central operating plant which controls the air conditioning and heating in all five airport terminals. These upgrades will replace the gas powered steam generation system currently used in the facility.

“This meets two of our major goals as we continue to improve our airport system—operating more efficiently, and with significantly reduced emissions,” said Mayor White. “These benefits don’t stop at the end of the runways.”

One of the grants is a $5 million contribution from the FAA’s Voluntary Airport Low Emission (VALE) program, a nationally competitive initiative designed to reduce airport ground emissions at commercial service airports located in regions of the country with higher than normal pollution levels, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The project allows airports to use grants to finance low emission vehicles, refueling and recharging stations, gate electrification, and other airport air quality improvements. Currently the entire Sedan/SUV fleet at HAS is composed of hybrids; more than half were purchased with VALE grants.

“We have presented some very unique ideas to the FAA and we’ve already worked closely and successfully with them on eight other green projects,” said Eric Potts interim director of aviation for the city of Houston. Potts also added that, “this project will allow IAH to significantly shrink its environmental footprint and that is good news for all of us.”

To date, only nine airport operators in the U.S. have received VALE grants, and the most recent grant to IAH is among the largest ever issued. In order to expedite the project the system will be designed and built to order, beginning in 2010 and is scheduled for completion in 2011.