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Projects cut Mather Airport’s water, energy use

Video: Environmental improvements at Mather

FAA administrator Michael Huerta speaks about the new environmental upgrades made to Mather Airport.
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FAA administrator Michael Huerta speaks about the new environmental upgrades made to Mather Airport.

California’s drought has all kinds of groups looking to reduce water use – even those that spend their time in the air.

The Federal Aviation Administration unveiled a variety of environmental conservation changes Friday at Mather Airport in Rancho Cordova that have lowered energy, water and natural gas use.

The airport is part of the TRACON zone that spans more than 21,000 square miles from Monterey to Oroville and into western Nevada. It includes over 100 public airports, including San Francisco International Airport and Sacramento International Airport, and is the third-largest airspace in the United States.

Gradual installations of an 8-acre solar panel field from 2011 through 2014 produce 59 percent of the control center’s electrical needs. The project was done in conjunction with energy service company NORESCO, which covered the $8 million setup cost and will receive 11 cents per kilowatt-hour used by the FAA over the next 20 years.

The 4,700 solar panels and natural gas reduction cut Mather Airport’s carbon footprint by 46 percent from 2011 to 2014, the equivalent of removing 300 automobiles from the road.

“For the Department of Transportation, this is the single largest renewable energy installation in the United States so far,” FAA administrator Michael Huerta said.

NORESCO will cover all upkeep costs for the solar field as part of a contract with the FAA, company CEO and president Neil Petchers said.

“These are bold statements, and they are – to use some vernacular – pretty damn cool,” Petchers said.

The FAA collaborated with Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District on other reduction tactics, including replacing 4.6 acres of lawn outside the headquarters with rubber mulch made from old tires. Laying the brown, green and blue mulch instead of grass has saved the FAA 6 million gallons of water per year, or 52 percent of the TRACON zone’s total usage.

Inside the facilities, natural gas emissions were decreased by 34 percent when new pipes featuring a thermostat were installed. The control center relies on a closed circulating system of warm water heated at an on-site boiler.

Temperature-monitoring pipes direct only cool water toward the boiler, instead of heating it regardless of initial warmth.

The FAA’s logistics center in Oklahoma City and technical center in Atlantic City will make environmental improvements based on those at Mather Airport, Huerta said.

“We’re actually working with each of the facilities to determine what works there,” he said.

FAA administrator Michael Huerta speaks about the new environmental upgrades made to Mather Airport.

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