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Future airports can become energy hubs

Aircraft powered by electric motors will require electrified airports. And this may not only mean that they must produce their own green electricity, but also have the ability to store it. With this in mind, we must make progress with development because within the next decade, the first electric aircraft will be in the air. So airports had better be ready for it.

For modern transports, airports are an obvious link in the chain. It is a complex system that comprises a variety of transport options for both people and freight. And for the majority of them, change is imminent.

– “Airports are a future facilitator for this transition. Rather than just being transport hubs, they could serve as energy hubs,” says Hampus Alfredsson, Researcher at RISE studying electromobility.

The need for power will increase

If we electrify more of our modes of transport, the need for power will also increase, particularly at airports, where many stakeholders will have to reach some sort of agreement concerning electricity. Airports will need to remain one step ahead. And one way of doing that will be by looking into on-site renewable electricity generation.

– “Local electricity production from solar and wind sources will help airports meet their own needs when the demand is high. But airports of the future can also become prosumers, selling green electricity when their own demand is lower,” say Hampus Alfredsson.

Airports are a future facilitator for this transition

Combined with energy storage

In all likelihood, it will be necessary to combine production with energy storage in order to meet fluctuations in the demand for power. Whether it be battery storage, hydrogen or some other solution, time will tell. Regardless, the electricity must be green and the battery sources powering aircraft must be sustainably produced before we can say that electrification of aircraft is sustainable.

What is clear, however, is that there are definitely financial gains to be had, along with the environmental ones, not least for small airports.

– “Financially, they are often hard pressed. But making the electrification transition and having electric aircraft could also be financially advantageous for airports,” he says.

But, how much electricity will actually be required?

– “There are very few electric aircraft on the market now and they require approximately the same power levels that are available when you stop to charge your electric car. But if we look ahead, and consider the bigger passenger planes, they are going to have much larger batteries that will need to be quickly charged between each arrival and departure. And more long term, we will need to be charging many aircraft batteries simultaneously. How that will be solved remains to be seen,” says Hampus Alfredsson.

A simulation model developed

With the aim of finding those answers, RISE has completed the project, MODELflyg, in collaboration with others including LFV and Swedavia.

– “Within the scope of this project, we have been looking at how many will gather at each place. And, if all of the planes are electrified, what will that require? We have tryed to make some accurate projections about what things will look like, say 10 years from now. And with that in mind, airports must start getting ready. We can’t start thinking about it at the point when aircraft are already electrified. We need to make the necessary preparations now,” concludes Hampus.

The report can be downloaded here (abstract in English).

Hampus Alfredsson

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Hampus Alfredsson


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