OMERS subsidiary bets on solar for Belfast airport

Lightsource Renewable has signed an agreement with an OMERS subsidiary to provide 27 percent of the airport’s energy with solar.

Lightsource Renewable Energy has signed an agreement with a portfolio company of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) to partially power Belfast International Airport with solar.

The UK solar provider has agreed to a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Belfast International owner Airports Worldwide, a subsidiary of OMERS, to build a 4.84MWp off-site solar farm that will provide 27 percent of the facility’s annual electricity demand. According to Lightsource, this is the largest solar project to connect to a UK airport.

Lightsource is the project’s sole funder, developer and operator. Its plan is to install a private cable that will connect the off-site solar panels directly to Belfast International. Lightsource predicted that by 2017 non-commodity electricity charges would increase as much as three pence per kilowatt hour, partly thanks to government scheme charges and Renewable Obligation targets.

“Industries around the world have a growing appetite for reliable renewable technologies that help them gain control of spiralling energy costs and reduce their carbon footprint,” Lightsource chief executive Nick Boyle said. “Large-scale PPA solar projects provide businesses with an opportunity to do just that by allowing them to fix their energy costs without the need for upfront investment.”

Its private cable PPA strategy, Lightsource says, can help businesses reduce exposure to energy market volatility and enable load shifting to avoid peak pricing. The company said the plan could pay off most for major energy users such as factories, data centres and water treatment plants.

Tech companies are using their own renewables farms to power data centres: Amazon said last month it would build a 208MW wind farm in North Carolina.

Other industries are beginning to follow suit. Last October, Procter & Gamble said it was partnering with EDF Renewable Energy to build a 123MW wind farm in Dallas to offset the energy it uses to power five factories.

Belfast International is 100 percent owned by Airports Worldwide, in which OMERS has a majority stake. Airports Worldwide bought the facility from TBI Airport Management in 2013, along with a 90.1 percent stake in Stockholm-Skavsta Airport and a 100 percent stake in Orlando Sanford Airport’s terminal concessions in Florida.