Solar panels to power airport's parking lots

Medford airport Director Bern Case says more ways to expand renewable energy will be sought

Electricity for the Medford airport's short- and long-term parking lots will soon be supplied by the sun's rays.

Airport officials said they plan to break ground Monday on a 15-kilowatt array of solar panels that will power the parking lot lights, ticket distributors and toll booths on the 7-acre, 1,000-car lot. The $100,000 project will be 80 percent paid for with a grant from Pacific Power's Blue Sky Block Program.

"We expect to have it operational by the end of November," Airport Director Bern Case said. "There are a lot of things the power will go for. It's just kind of a win all the way around."

A ground-breaking ceremony is set for 1:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15.

This is the airport's first renewable energy project. The array will be installed on a 30-foot by 60-foot canopy over the three electric toll booths at the north end of the parking plaza.

"There'll be coverage now instead of having rainfall," Case said. "It also protects the people in the booths."

Case said he's unsure how much power is consumed by the parking lot's lights and machinery, but that it's significant, as the lot lights are left on constantly.

"It's a pretty good chunk," Case said. "That's like a major neighborhood out there."

A portion of parking lot power will continue to be supplied via traditional power methods.

"You're clearly still connected to grid, because you want everything to operate at night," said Tom Gauntt, Pacific Power spokesman.

It's not yet known how much money the airport might save with the solar power, but Case said the amount would be significant.

Airport officials are already pushing for another array. If approved, more solar panels would be installed on canopies leading from the airport terminal's front doors to the parking lot. Officials expect to hear whether that's approved by year's end.

"We're pretty optimistic if this goes well, we'll be able to expand," Case said. "We'll apply for additional opportunities."

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.


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