Europe's biggest airports each consume as much energy as a small city

Software to cut carbon footprint of airports

European engineers are testing a new software and sensor system to make heating, lighting and air-conditioning in Europe’s power-hungry airports more energy efficient.

With the biggest airports each consuming as much energy as a small city, the pressure has been mounting to find ways to make those transportation hubs more environmentally friendly.

The new system, developed as part of the EU-funded CASCADE project, should enable airports to cut their energy costs by up to 20 per cent.

"Sensors and meters are placed on the infrastructure and communicate information to a central database,” explained the project’s coordinator Nicolas Réhault.

“Innovative software can detect faults, for example fans operating when they are not required, simultaneous heating and cooling, control errors and so on. It can then suggest corrective actions to the energy management and maintenance teams, like resetting controls or replacing faulty detectors,” said Réhault, who works at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Freiburg, Germany.

The system is currently being tested at two airports in Italy – Rome’s Fiumicino and Milan's Malpensa. The researchers believe both airports could save up to 6,000 MWh of energy a year, which means emitting 42,000 tons of carbon dioxide less and saving €840,000 (£664,000) a year.

"With the knowledge we gain, we want to replicate the solution at other airports", said Réhault.

The CASCADE project has been awarded €2.6m of EU funding with teams from Germany, Italy, Ireland and Serbia working to design the best solution. The project is supported by the Airports Council International Europe – representing over 450 European airports – aiming to implement the technology on a wider scale in 2015.

The team believes the knowledge gathered during the project could be successfully applied to reduce energy consumption of other complex centres and buildings, including hospitals and banks.

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