Solar electric panels over Kennedy Airport parking lot will power AirTrain, feed Queens grid

Clayton Guse, New York Daily News

Solar panels over a Kennedy Airport parking lot will power the JFK AirTrain and send electricity to the Queens power grid, Port Authority officials said Thursday.

The project, which was approved unanimously Wednesday by the Port Authority board, is expected to produce 12.3 megawatts of electricity and will come with 2.5 megawatts of battery storage.

That will make it the largest facility in the state where solar power is generated and stored in one place, said Christine Weydig, the Port Authority’s environment and energy chief.

The Port Authority won’t pay for the project’s $56 million construction cost — but under a deal with solar company SunPower and Goldman Sachs, it will pay for the electricity it uses from the system.

“This project will be constructed at no upfront cost to the Port Authority,” said Weydig. “The developer recovers its costs through various incentives and the sale of electricity generated over 25 years.”

Part of the deal struck by the Port Authority includes discounted electricity for some low and middle-income residents in southeast Queens.

The panels will provide 6.2 megawatts of electric to power the JFK AirTrain and 6.1 megawatts for the power grid.

When the panels go live, low- and middle-income residents of southeast Queens will be eligible to apply for credits on their electricity bills through a state program that encourages solar use, officials said.

Construction is scheduled to begin in mid-2021 and will be completed by the end of 2022, officials said.

Port Authority Executive Director Rock Cotton said the solar project is a part of the agency’s effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 35% by 2035, in line with goals set by the Paris Agreement of 2016.

“This project demonstrates our commitment to reducing air pollution and investing in our local communities through job creation and more affordable power options,” Cotton said.