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 BUSINESS  

Airport Rocks Eco-Friendly Runway Lighting
By A.B. Snedeker

Not only is Hartsfield-Jackson the nation's leading passenger airport, it is also a leader in airport research and development. In fact, a new eco-friendly pilot program being tested at the Airport may cut airfield electrical power requirements by as much as 98 percent. It just might also set a trend in changing the way other U.S. airports illuminate their runways.

As part of the program, Hartsfield-Jackson engineers are pioneering a new method for providing electricity to light-emitting diode (LED) lights for runway edges and taxiways. Standard LED lights use an internal power supply to convert alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC) at each fixture, which results in energy loss and inefficiency.

AC/DC

The pilot began in October 2006 under the guidance of Rodney Long, Hartsfield-Jackson senior electrical facilities manager. Long, who has since retired, worked closely with other electrical engineers and Siemens Airfield Solutions to eliminate the energy loss and inefficiencies of traditional LED technology.

Long and his colleagues discovered a unique approach to supplying electricity to airfield lighting fixtures. Built on an existing electrical infrastructure, the DC Series LED system uses an innovative constant control regulator at a central power facility to eliminate the need for a power converter at each fixture. Each LED runway light in the circuit, comprised of a series of lighting fixtures along the same power supply cable, receives the required direct electrical current without losing energy in the AC/DC conversion process.

The new system offers a number of benefits. With only seven components in each DC Series fixture, there are fewer parts to stock and less maintenance. The new fixtures are expected to be so reliable that the Airport will save more than 4,700 gallons of gasoline each year with the reduction in maintenance vehicle trips alone.

LED Zeppelin

There are even more environmental benefits of the DC system, according to Brian Hennessey, Hartsfield-Jackson environmental and technical services assistant director. As incandescent light fixtures fail over time, they are being upgraded to the system. "When it is fully implemented, DC Series LED lighting will reduce airfield lighting energy use by 98 percent," he said.

In fact, when all of the approximately 17,000 airfield lights are upgraded, energy consumption will drop from 2.21 million kilowatt hours annually to just under 40,000 kilowatt hours. That's like comparing the energy it takes to power 185 households for a year vs. just three households.

Air Supply (Yes, Air Supply)

These energy savings are good news for air quality and equate to a considerable reduction in power plant emissions.

"We reduce carbon emissions by 2.5 pounds and sulfur oxide emission by .013 pounds for every kilowatt hour we save," said Hennessey. "When the entire airfield is upgraded, we'll decrease annual carbon and sulfur emissions associated with lighting Hartsfield-Jackson's runways and taxiways by nearly 85 percent." That results in more than 5.4 million fewer pounds of carbon emissions and 28,000 fewer pounds of sulfur emissions each year.

This is also big news for the airport industry. "The use of DC Series LED lights has the potential to tremendously reduce airport lighting energy consumption at airports across the country," said Hartsfield-Jackson General Manager Ben DeCosta. "I am proud that we are taking a leadership role in testing this innovative technology."

Benefits for airports?

  • Reduced energy costs
  • Reduced life cycle and maintenance costs
  • Designed to withstand vibrations and harsh airfield environment
  • Easy interface with existing electrical infrastructure
  • Ability to add new lights without increasing support equipment
  • Longer maintenance cycles


© 2008 Hartsfield-Jackson News. A Publication from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. All rights reserved.

 

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