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PIT’s Microgrid Among ‘Smartest and Most Inspiring Projects of the Year’

By Alyson Walls

This article was originally published on Blue Sky News on April 27, 2020.

For the second time this year, Pittsburgh International Airport has been recognized by Fast Company Magazine, this time for “World Changing Ideas.”

After naming the airport one of the world’s Most Innovative Companies in March, Fast Company today announced the airport as a finalist in three categories in its 2020 World Changing Ideas Awards.

The leading business publication, which focuses on innovation in technology, leadership and design, recognized the airport for protecting national critical infrastructure through energy independence.

Pittsburgh International Airport is building a first-of-its-kind electrical microgrid that will completely power the facility by summer 2021 and result in increased redundancy for electrical systems as well as enhanced cost savings. Additionally, a second microgrid will be built exclusively to power Neighborhood 91.

“The projects we honor in the World Changing Ideas Awards are more important than ever,” said Stephanie Mehta, editor in chief of Fast Company. “The honorees are playing an important role in building a better world—now and as we emerge from the coronavirus crisis. We’re proud to support the bold ideas these organizations are working on.”

The design of the microgrid, which will be built, operated and maintained by Peoples Natural Gas, is about 80 percent complete, and the main electrical switch gear components are currently being procured. The facility is unique because not only will it power both terminals, the airfield, the Hyatt hotel and a Sunoco gas station, it will be fueled in part by the airport’s own natural gas wells drilled on-site and nearly 8,000 solar panels covering eight acres.

“This recognition is important because it further solidifies our airport and region’s position as a world leader in aviation innovation,” said Pittsburgh International Airport CEO Christina Cassotis. “This project will bring power resiliency and redundancy to enhance safety and ensure continued operations for the traveling public.”

The microgrid is expected to produce more than 20 megawatts of electricity, the equivalent of powering more than 13,000 residential homes. The airport’s current peak demand is approximately 14 megawatts.

“Energy is quite literally the bedrock of our region,” said Morgan O’Brien, former president and CEO of Peoples Natural Gas, when the microgrid was announced in October. “This project illustrates our region’s ability to show the world how to combine innovation and technology to be more responsible to our environment while creating a modern, state-of-the-art airport that people will celebrate and that will help power this region’s growth into the future.”

Mehta said this year saw the largest number of entries—more than 3,000 in transportation, education, food, politics, technology and more from around the world—ever received for the award. All finalists are highlighted in the May/June issue of the print magazine, which hits newsstands May 5.

Other honorees include hunger-fighting nonprofit Food Rescue Hero, 3D-printing homebuilder Icon, carbon-tracking nonprofit Climate Neutral, broadband provider Viasat, and several other game-changing companies in industries ranging from healthcare to disability empowerment to cleaner transportation.

“There seems no better time to recognize organizations that are using their ingenuity, resources, and, in some cases, their scale to tackle society’s biggest problems,” Mehta said. “Our journalists have uncovered some of the smartest and most inspiring projects of the year.”