Washington Dulles International Airport might be the future site of a massive solar-power facility.
Officials from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and Dominion Energy announced Oct. 3 that they jointly would explore the potential of a possible 100-megawatt solar project on about 1,200 acres at the 13,000-acre airport, which straddles the line between western Fairfax and eastern Loudoun counties.
Dominion officials recently signed a sublease with MWAA about starting feasibility studies that could advance the project. Officials hope that energy generated by the project would be fed into Dominion’s existing transmission line at the airport.
The solar project would be one of Northern Virginia’s largest and at peak output could power about 25,000 houses.
Dominion officials on Sept. 18 filed an application with regional-transmission organization PJM, which coordinates electrical grids in 13 states and the District of Columbia, about connecting the proposed Dulles solar project to the transmission grid.
The Dulles solar facility could begin operations as soon as 2023 and would help Dominion meet its goal to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 55 percent as of 2030. Dominion also aims to have 3,000 megawatts’ worth of solar or wind energy either in operation or under development by 2022.
Some other U.S. airports, including one in Denver, Boston, Tampa, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Honolulu, already have solar panels. Multiple agencies will help determine whether Dulles is the best site for such equipment and the final decision likely will be made by the State Corporation Commission or the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, said Peggy Fox, Dominion’s media and community-relations manager for Northern Virginia.
“If it goes in front of either regulatory body, the public will have an opportunity to comment,” Fox said. “Timing is not certain at this point, as we are just starting with our study phase.”
The 1,200-acre figure is an estimate and officials do not expect the solar panels to take up all that space. The total coverage area will depend on the project’s design and panels’ placement, she said.
Would the project produce glint (flashes of light that temporarily blind pilots) or glare (similar blazes of light, but of longer duration) or cause electromagnetic interference with the airport’s radar system?
“Appropriate studies, including glare studies, will be performed in the next phase of development,” Fox said. “Plus, any findings from prior [Federal Aviation Administration] studies will be incorporated.”