Rochester airport to finally get rooftop solar panels

Dec 10, 2010

The Innovation Trail has learned that the installation of rooftop solar panels at the Greater Rochester International Airport is scheduled to begin on Monday.

Airport Director David Damelio says the solar panels were received earlier this week, and that work will begin on the 13th, weather permitting.

It's the first step toward realizing the airport's long-delayed Green Energy Initiatives Project.

"I wish it was going faster," said Damelio. "But this is an important first step. If we can get through the next few weeks and get this thing installed, I think that really turns the corner for us for where we want to be."

In April 2009, when the project was announced, USA Today reported that wind turbines would be spinning on the airport's roof by "mid-June."

On one of its own websites, Monroe County said the project would be done by mid-2010.

But that's clearly not the case.  

December's not the best time of year to work on a roof, so the timeline for getting the solar array up and running is rough. But Damelio says it could be complete in a matter of weeks.

However, a concrete plan for the wind turbines is not yet established.

"There's a lot of outside factors that need to be considered," said Damelio. "By no means is [small scale wind power] off the table. It's certainly part of our green initiative project. We think is very important for our facility to be as self-sufficient as it can be."

The solar panels will cover 50,000 square feet of the terminal building's roof. The array will have a capacity of 100,000 watts.

It was initially reported that the project would reduce the building's energy costs by about 18 percent. The airport estimates that with only the solar array the savings will be between 12 and 15 percent.

"We want to be as self sufficient as we can," said Damelio. "If we can produce our own energy - cut our energy costs - that's better for the airlines. And in the end, better for the traveling public."

Damelio attributes some of the delay to the state approval process. He says it took four months for the project to obtain NYSERDA approval.