Fraport is embarking on another photovoltaic (PV) project at Frankfurt Airport, increasing the proportion of its energy that is sustainably generated.

The operator has installed a demonstration system of 20 PV panels with an output of 8.4kW at the southwestern end of Runway 18 West. Fraport plans to extend the triple-array PV system along Runway 18 West. Once fully installed, the system is intended to span a length of 2,600m parallel to the runway, with a peak generating output of up to 13 megawatts. 

Opportunity to leverage green space between runways
Unlike existing PV systems at the airport, the panels for this new system are positioned vertically, rather than diagonally. Double-sided glass modules pick up sunlight from both easterly and westerly directions. “Vacant green spaces within our runway system are ideal locations for this particular type of facility,” said Marcus Keimling of Fraport’s network services team. 

These fence-style systems offer numerous advantages. While they take up minimal space, they generate large volumes of electricity because of their ability to harness sunlight throughout the day. Another benefit is that grass below the panels is not significantly affected by the systems overhead since the panels do not obstruct rain or create permanent shading. “This means we can expect maximum electricity generation with a minimal impact on nature,” Keimling said. “That’s important because our green spaces are virtually unique when it comes to their biodiversity. We want to keep this, even with the new installation.” 

“The aim of our initial demonstration section is to gain experience with building and maintaining the system and the lawn around it,” Keimling explained. “Our own staff will be involved in this task. The trial areas will give us the experience we need. We’re going to move on to expanding the PV system alongside the runway very soon, with the aim of completing it as soon as possible.”

Self-generated solar power has been a major component of Fraport’s energy mix since March 2021. A 13,000m2 PV system that uses a more traditional layout on the roof of a cargo warehouse in CargoCity South generates peak output of around 1.5mW. Over the longer term, more PV systems will be installed on new buildings such as the parking building for Frankfurt Airport’s new Terminal 3. 

A driving factor behind the switch to green energy has been a power purchase agreement with energy supplier EnBW that Fraport signed in December 2021. By the winter of 2025/26, the first electricity from a wind farm to be built off Germany’s North Sea coast will be available to the airport. Fraport has secured output of 85mW through the agreement. Until the wind farm is put into service, Fraport will supplement its energy mix with wind energy from smaller power purchase agreements from existing facilities along the coast. 

Images: Fraport