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Helsinki Airport goes solar energy

Finavia supports the international climate agreement through its climate programme.

Finavia, the operator of Helsinki Airport, has decided to speed up its ambitious climate programme. The aim of the programme is to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions caused by the operations of all of the company's 21 airports to zero by 2020. Through its airport network, Finavia is a key party to the commitment of European airport companies to have 100 carbon-neutral airports in Europe by 2030.

At Helsinki Airport, this goal will already be reached in 2017, when the largest airport solar power plant in the Nordic countries is opened at the airport, and when airport buses start using renewable fuels.  

Finavia also encourages its stakeholders to give feedback on the company/s sustainability actions.

Renewable energy for airport terminals and buses

  • Now that the international climate policy has faced difficulties through the unexpected withdrawal of the United States, it is even more important that companies lead the way in reducing emissions. Finavia is committed to working hard to prevent our airports from increasing their carbon dioxide emissions in 2020. In addition to minimising our own emissions, this means that we are committed to reducing emissions in countries struggling with environmental problems, such as in India, through compensation mechanisms, says Kari Savolainen, CEO of Finavia.

At airports, carbon dioxide emissions are mainly caused by the energy consumption of buildings, lighting systems and vehicles. Helsinki Airport plays a central part in reducing Finavia's emissions. Finavia is also determined to start reducing emissions at its other airports. 

Finavia's climate programme consists of a range of different actions. Its essential parts are the significant increase in the use of renewable forms of energy, the origin of power and heat, the improvement of energy efficiency in all activities and the compensation of emissions in the markets. 

International agreement on controlling aircraft emissions

  • Questions about the environment have more and more impact on the choices consumers make, also in terms of air traffic. That is why it is important to know that air traffic is the first industrial field that has a global emissions control system. Last year, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) made a decision on a CORSIA mechanism which ensures that air traffic emissions do not increase after 2020, even though the number of passengers increases, Savolainen says, describing the emissions control system of the air traffic industry.

Construction of a solar power plant in progress at Helsinki Airport
Currently, Finavia is among the first European airports to invest in a solar power plant to be located at Helsinki Airport. The construction of the power plant is underway on the roof of terminal 2, and it is expected to produce energy starting from late summer 2017. 

The entire system, with a total output of more than 500 kWp, will be completed in 2019, and it will be the largest airport solar power plant in the Nordic countries.

  • This project required thorough planning, as there is not much previous experience in the use of solar power plants in global airport environments. The power plant needs to be built in great detail to prevent, for example, solar panels from causing reflections to aircraft. Solar power will produce nearly ten per cent of the power required in the new energy-efficient terminal areas at Helsinki Airport, Savolainen says. 

In addition to Helsinki Airport, Finavia will increase the use of renewable energy at its other Finnish airports, for example, using bioenergy and geothermal heat.

Vehicles fuelled by renewable diesel
Finavia will significantly increase the use of renewable fuels in ground vehicles at Helsinki Airport during 2017.

Buses travelling between the terminal and aircraft will be fuelled by a diesel product manufactured wholly from waste and residue. In addition, smaller airport vehicles are already mainly powered by electricity. Finavia's goal is to engage other companies operating at its airports to use renewable fuels.

Facts about the climate programme
The operations of Finavia's airports produced 32,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in 2016. The company has reduced its emissions by an average of three per cent per passenger per year over the past ten years.

Key activities under Finavia's climate programme by 2020:

  • Use of wind power
  • Construction of a solar power plant
  • Airport vehicles fuelled by renewable diesel
  • Purchase of eco-friendly vehicles
  • Significant increase in LED lights
  • Use of, for example, pellets and geothermal heat as heat sources
  • Compensation, emissions units from voluntary markets
  • Eco-efficient construction, e.g. BREEAM certification
  • Engaging other companies operating at airports to reduce their emissions