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JFK airport's new terminal will be powered by a microgrid and the largest rooftop solar array in New York City

Catherine Boudreau   

JFK airport's new terminal will be powered by a microgrid and the largest rooftop solar array in New York City
  • A new terminal at New York's JFK will be partly powered by a microgrid, batteries, and fuel cells.
  • AlphaStruxure, the project developer, said that would produce 38% less greenhouse-gas emissions.

A massive transformation of New York City's largest airport is underway, and developers are touting its sustainability credentials.

John F. Kennedy International Airport's $9.5 billion New Terminal One will be partly powered by a microgrid with 11.34 megawatts of electricity from rooftop solar, gas fuel cells, and battery storage. A system that captures waste heat from the fuel cells will chill and warm water.

AlphaStruxure, a joint venture of the private equity firm Carlyle Group and France's Schneider Electric, announced Thursday that it would construct and operate the energy project after winning a contract from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, and the New Terminal One consortium, a privately financed group of labor, operating, and financial partners.

"Solving our energy challenge really comes down to three things: electrifying, digitizing, and decarbonizing by getting more electricity from renewable sources. Microgrids are key to achieving all of this," Annette Clayton, the CEO of Schneider Electric North America, said during a press briefing.

The rooftop solar array — made up of more than 13,000 panels — will be the largest in New York City and at any US airport terminal, AlphaStruxure said.

The microgrid is expected to generate about what 3,570 average US homes would use in a year. Each "power island," with fuel cells and battery storage, will be digitized and automated. The islands can operate independently, though they'll be interconnected as one system. Three are set to be completed by 2026, with the final power island coming online by 2029, AlphaStruxure said.

The microgrid will allow New Terminal One to operate independently of the city's power grid — maybe indefinitely — in case of an emergency like extreme weather, Juan Macias, the CEO of AlphaStruxure, said. The system will also produce 38% less greenhouse-gas emissions compared with sourcing all electricity from the grid, according to AlphaStruxure.

Installing fuel cells, instead of diesel generators, is estimated to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide, a toxic air pollutant, by 98%, Macias added. The fuel cells will use natural gas from the power grid but are designed to accommodate greener fuels as those are commercialized, such as hydrogen made from renewable energy.

The terminal will feature large, naturally lit public spaces and amenities designed to enhance travelers' experiences, according to the New Terminal One consortium.

Construction began in September. The first of 23 gates are expected to open in 2026, and the work is set to be completed by 2030.



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