The Airports Authority of T&T is partnering with the European Union to construct a solar park at the Piarco International Airport at an estimated cost of €1.5 million ($12 million). The EU is funding the entire project, which will be located at the North Terminal, by providing a grant of €1.5 million to the Airports Authority.
Construction on the project is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2020 and is expected to take six months.
Asked if the Airports Authority will be partnering with the European Union with regard to the procurement process and procedures, the Authority said: “In the execution of the project, the Authority is guided by national procurement policy, the Authority’s tender policies and procedures, as well as the Practical Guide on Contract Procedures (PRAG) for EU external actions, which provides practical assistance in preparing and implementing procurement and grant contracts, and which must be followed by beneficiaries of EU-financed projects.
The solar park is expected to provide a minimum annual generation capacity of 1,443,830 kWh with the potential to avoid annual emissions of 1,010 metric tonnes CO2.
The Authority said this solar park project is expected to provide approximately seven per cent of the airport’s total electrical consumption.
The prospective bidders will be required to propose the number, type and origin of solar panels to be used to fulfil the objectives of the project.
The solar park project was borne from a feasibility study between the Authority, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the European Union (EU) on ‘Capacity Building for CO2 Mitigation from International Aviation’.
The study identified six specific locations where solar photovoltaic (PV) projects could be developed cost-effectively and compatibly with airspace safety and the long-term development of the airport business. This project aims at developing a solar farm at one of these six identified locations, the Authority said.
“The airport can only be fully sustained by solar energy to generate electricity by implementing solar panels at the remaining five sites as identified in the feasibility study. The Authority will continue to look for opportunities to partner and acquire funding to fulfil this objective,” said the Authority.
Have the other five sites been earmarked for other aspects of the Piarco development plan?
The Authority will be pursuing funding to develop solar parks at the five other sites that were earmarked in the feasibility study.
Questioned on whether the Authority expects to save money, in the long run, by introducing a solar park at Piarco, T&T’s airport said it does expect to save money during the life cycle of the park.
“Additionally, the AATT is also expected to contribute to the reduction in carbon emissions as part of the Government’s intended National Determined Contribution as outlined in the Paris Agreement,” the Authority said.
A 2018 Government of T&T document states that the country’s intended Nationally Determined Contribution (iNDC) is based on its Carbon Reduction Strategy developed for its power generation, transportation and industrial sectors, these being the major emitting sectors of the economy, and consistent with implementing the provisions of the National Climate Change Policy.
According to the document: “Trinidad and Tobago’s aim is to achieve a reduction objective in overall emissions from the three sectors by 15 per cent by 2030 from BAU, which in absolute terms is an equivalent of 103 million tonnes of CO2e. The estimated cost of meeting this objective is US$2 billion, which is expected to be met partly through domestic funding and conditional on international financing including through the Green Climate Fund.
“In this regard, Trinidad and Tobago will commit to unconditionally reduce its public transportation emissions by 30 per cent or 1,700,000 CO2e compared to 2013 levels by December 31, 2030.
In preparation for construction of the solar park on the site, vegetation must be removed to ensure there is no obstruction of light rays to the installed solar photo-voltaic panels. As a result, the Authority initiated a tree-replanting exercise to allow the value of the removed shrubbery to continue within the community, so as not to alter the net effect of carbon dioxide absorption.
The Authority hosted a tree-planting ceremony on June 5 in commemoration of World Environment Day and the alignment of the occasion with the goals for the project.
At the event, the chairman of the Authority, Keith Thomas said: “The appeal of the Solar Farm is largely aided by the achievement of the main objective to contribute to Trinidad and Tobago’s Paris Agreement and the intended nationally determined contribution to reduce overall carbon emissions by 15 per cent through the year 2030. The project also improves Trinidad and Tobago’s resilience to climate change by introducing renewable energy as an energy source for electricity generation not only to the airport but to the country.”
Hayden Newton, general manager of the Authority said: “The replanting of trees is significant. We are doing this in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and the start of hurricane season, as we understand the impact of climate change on our lives and livelihood. The replanting of trees today symbolises the Authority’s recognition of its corporate social responsibility to our environment and our commitment to climate action for the sake of future generations.”
Ambassador Arend Biesebroek, head of delegation of the European Union to Trinidad and Tobago said the negative effects of climate change—coastal erosion, increasingly intensive rainfall, floods, and prolonged period of droughts—are clear for everyone to see.
“We all agree that it is important to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to try to avoid an aggravation of these negative effects. The EU has therefore made environmental protection and climate action a top priority, not only at home but also in cooperation with our partner countries. This solar park, financed through the GCCA+ initiative, is an example of our commitment. I am very pleased that I could contribute to the development of this initiative.”