The site Tuesday at Kennedy Airport where a solar carport large enough...

The site Tuesday at Kennedy Airport where a solar carport large enough to cover 11 football fields is being constructed. Credit: Corey Sipkin

The Port Authority on Tuesday kicked off construction at Kennedy Airport on what's slated to become the largest solar carport and energy storage system in the state.

At the airport’s long term parking lot, a drilling machine burrowing into the ground officially marked the start of an estimated $80 to $90 million privately funded green project on Tuesday, officials said.

With the AirTrain as a backdrop and a cadre of dignitaries and community leaders looking on, Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton sounded an alarm and the heavy machinery switched into gear.

The carport canopy is expected to generate 12 megawatts of clean energy and cut more than 6,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year, the equivalent of 11 million pounds of burning coal, according to Cotton.

Taking up about 11 football fields, the covered lot will be topped by 32,000 solar panels and fit 3,000 cars in parking spaces underneath. It will include a 6-megawatt community solar generation facility and 7.5 megawatts of battery storage to lower airport energy use during peak hours.

Half the 12 megawatts will go toward the airport and to run the AirTrain, Cotton said, while the other half will be used to supplement energy for local low-income residents.  

“Not only will this solar carport provide clean energy for the airport, but it will also provide a reduction in energy costs for low-income households in the surrounding community,” Cotton said.

Households will see a minimum 10% savings in their utility bill for 25 years, according to Cotton and TotalEnergies Renewables, a global multi-energy company which is footing the carport’s cost, in addition to constructing, owning and operating it.

Justin Driscoll, president and CEO of the New York Power Authority, said the project will help the state meet its goal of installing 10,000 megawatts of solar by 2030, as well as getting 70% of its energy from renewable energy. The project will be built in two phases: The first phase will deliver energy to the airport starting in March 2025 and the second phase will provide energy to Con Edison for the surrounding community in April 2026.

“It's projects like this that will help us get to where we want to go. Greener, thriving, economically vibrant New York, powered by clean energy,” Driscoll said.

Alex Sarly, a senior account executive at TotalEnergies, told Newsday the utility power is being augmented and there are also batteries on site.

“We're going to help the grid in fact with the batteries, and then we're sending some of that excess energy out to the same communities that we're selling energy to,” Sarly said. 

The Port Authority has previously stated it is on track to reduce direct emissions by 35% by 2025, with a 50% reduction by 2030. The carport is one of the agency’s several initiatives to combat climate change. Last April, the authority announced it had completed a 5-megawatt solar rooftop parking garage at Newark Liberty International Airport. Other solar projects include a 1.5-megawatt rooftop solar array at LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B garage and plans for rooftop arrays of solar panels at JFK's new Terminal 1 and Terminal 6.

Rep. Gregory Meeks, a Democrat representing parts of Nassau and Queens, said he thinks about what the future will be for his four young grandchildren.

“And so the focus is, what will their world be like, how can I make sure that they can breathe the air? How can we make sure that we're preserving our environment? This project, the largest in the state, will lead the way for others to follow,” Meeks said.

Kennedy Airport is undergoing a $19 billion transformation, which includes modernizing terminals 4 and 8, plus building new roadway and garages.

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