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Denver Airport’s Greenest Parking Facility

Credits: ©2011 Canopy Airport Parking

The Canopy parking facility at Denver International Airport in Colorado, USA, is providing free charging stations for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, and generating electricity with solar panels and wind turbines. The parking area’s local energy generation eliminates losses in transmission that occurs with the use of many fossil fuel power systems, and generates no emissions of carbon or noxious gases. Plus, electric vehicles can be “plugged-in” to the sun and wind while the driver is traveling, and recharged and ready to drive when they return. Denver Airport is the fifth largest airport in the United States, located in a sparsely populated region where public transportation to the airport is limited. Some passengers drive 600 miles (1000km) to reach the airport, making such private automobile parking necessary. The total size of the facility is approximately 186,000 square meters (46 acres). Colorado provides a perfect environment for generating solar power enjoys with more than 300 days of sunshine per year; also, the high altitude (elevation more than 5,000 ft. or 1700m) reduces the loss of solar radiation. The open high plains surrounding Denver International Airport are ideally suited for almost continuous electrical wind power generation with flat terrain, few trees, and slightly lower ground in the direction of prevailing wind that creates a persistent wind. Denver’s Canopy Parking Facility is owned and operated by Greenscape Capital Group, Inc. (Scroll to bottom for additional resources)


Denver Airport Green Parking Wind Turbines

The 4,200-stall Canopy Airport Parking lot at Denver International Airport incorporates energy saving features including solar and wind power (vertical turbines at left), geothermal heating and cooling. ©2011 Greenscape Capital

Solar Panels
Solar panels generate clean electricity to recharge electric vehicles, as well as power for the 4,200 stall parking garage. A 16.9kW solar array along the entry drive into Canopy Airport Parking produces an output of 24,000 kWhr/yr using Sharp panels. The panels incorporate an advanced surface texturing process to increase light absorption and improve efficiency, and were assembled at Sharp’s manufacturing facility in Memphis, Tennessee, USA; the Memphis factory earned the Sharp “Super Green” status in April, 2009. Sharp focuses on an environmentally sustainable domestic and overseas manufacturing process.

The photovoltaic cells in the panels work by converting some of the sunlight’s energy into a clean form of electricity that can be used to power lights or appliances. The PV cells consist of a positive and a negative slice of silicon placed under a thin slice of glass. As the protons of the sunlight beat down onto the PV cell they knock the neutrons off the silicon. The negatively charged free neutrons are attracted to the silicon but are trapped by the magnetic field that is formed from the opposing fields. Small wires on the silicon catch these neutrons and when connected in a circuit an electric current is formed. Voila! Electricity.

The building incorporates a geothermal heating and cooling system, as well as reflective roofing, that help cut HVAC demands. For the geothermal system, seven boreholes were drilled, each to a depth of approximately 300 feet. During the heating season, the circulated fluid temperature will drop and during the cooling season, the loop field temperature will be increased.

Wind Turbines
Additional renewable energy comes from a 9.6 kilowatt (kW) wind farm on the site. Six 2000 kWh/yr wind turbines, manufactured by Windspire, have rotor blades constructed from recycled aircraft grade aluminum and a monopole made from recycled high-grade steel. The cylindrical turbines have a sleek propeller-free design and operate in an ultra-quiet manner; they are 30 ft. (9.1m) tall with a diameter of four feet (1.2 meters). The instantaneous power output of each turbine is 1.2 kW at a wind speed of 25 mph (40 km/h), producing an estimated total output of 7,200kWhr/yr. These Windspire wind turbines were designed to operate in areas with minimum average wind speeds of at least 10 mph (4.5m/s) though it works best with average winds of 11 mph (5 m/s).

Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy in the wind into mechanical power. This mechanical power can be used for specific tasks (such as grinding grain or pumping water) or a generator can convert this mechanical power into electricity. Here, wind turns the blades on the wind turbine, which spin a shaft, which connects to a generator and makes electricity.

“Juice Bar” Recharging Stations
Six Juice Bar recharging stations, distributed by Green Garage Associates of Hartford, Connecticut, are installed in the Indoor Valet and Covered Self-Park areas. Each Juice Bar provides Level One (typical electrical outlet) and Level Two 220-240V (SAE J1172-2009) recharging connections. The Level Two connection is attached to a 22 foot (seven-meter) “hose” that recharges vehicles two to three times faster than a typical 120v recharging station. The UL-approved Juice Bars were designed by BMW Designworks and are manufactured from reclaimed aluminum. Backlit with LED lighting, the Juice Bars can completely charge a vehicle using the Level Two connections in four to six hours. And the charging is free for parking customers.

Energy Savings
An August 2010 study performed by the Architectural Energy Corporation found that overall energy savings achieved by Denver Airport’s Canopy Airport Parking are 70 percent when compared with American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers baseline values. This results in annual savings of $92,000 USD (2010) for utility costs relating to the buildings and illumination of parking areas. The 70 percent total cost savings result from energy-efficient wall and roof insulation, efficient mechanical systems, ground loop heat pumps with an energy recovery system, energy saving lighting, and the integration of solar and wind energy sources along with geothermal heating and cooling.

Alternative Fuel Shuttle Buses
This green parking facility employs seven biodiesel buses, six Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses, and one hybrid bus. The CNG comes from converting landfill gas from a nearby landfill into renewable CNG using a methane purification process. Because airport shuttle buses run on short trips with many stops and starts, frequent low speed operation, and substantial idle time, hybrid vehicles are particularly well-suited for airport parking shuttles.

Denver’s Canopy Airport Parking is one of the country’s first Green Parking Council Demonstrator Sites as of December 2010. The building at the parking facility also qualifies for a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold green building rating. The parking industry is considered to have a negative impact on the environment, comprising a large component of the commercial built environment. It also houses an inherently dirty product: automobiles. Owners Propark have created this greener parking facility to help the industry address the inherent challenges of balancing parking needs with sustainability.

Denver Airport
By land, Denver International is the largest airport in the United States and the third largest in the world. By passenger traffic, it is the fifth busiest in the United States and the tenth busiest in the world. It was voted “Best Airport in North America” in 2005 by Business Traveler Magazine and named “America’s Best Run Airport” by Time Magazine in 2002. As of November 2010, Denver International Airport was serving more than 51 million passengers annually, with passenger growth up 3.8%.


Greenscape Capital (USA)

Canopy Green Airport Parking (Denver, Colorado)