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Yeager Airport board explores solar panel project

CHARLESTON (AP) — Yeager Airport officials are exploring a project that could make the airport the first in the nation to run entirely on electricity it generates from solar panels.

The Charleston Gazette reports that members approved a motion to find the lowest bid on the project at a board meeting Thursday.

The project would place solar panels atop the parking garage closest to the airport’s terminal and in the airfield near the runway.

It stems from the airport’s sustainability efforts trying to lower the airport’s energy costs and carbon footprint.

“It’s an exciting project,” airport director Rick Atkinson said, adding that the project could be scaled back if needed.

The money for the $15.3 million project would come from funds leftover from other the Federal Aviation Administration projects. The FAA is expediting its airspace review of the project to ensure the panels won’t negatively impact on current air operations.

“We would be a net producer of electricity instead of a consumer. We’d eliminate basically our electricity bill, which is about $450,000 a year,” Atkinson said. “I thought (American Electric Power) might not like because we’re in a coal producing state, but at the same time they have to have so many renewable sources in the system, so it’s a benefit to them.”

While the money and the project are not guaranteed, Atkinson said if the entire project is completed, Yeager would be the first airport in the country to be 100 percent off the grid. Airports in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Tucson, Arizona have solar panels contributing to the airports’ power.

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