Penn Environment’s holey umbrella

Penn Environment’s holey umbrella

A new and self-contained power microgrid has been completed at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT).

As WESA-FM radio reports it, the system is made up of nearly 10,000 solar panels and a mini power plant that burns natural gas sourced from gas wells on the PIT footprint in Findlay Township.

“Though the microgrid can operate independently, it is still interconnected with the larger electric grid, so if there is an on-site problem with power generation, the airport can still draw electricity from the grid,” the station reports.

Peoples Gas owns and operates the facility that can provide all the electrical power PIT requires and more in the case of expansion, WESA says.

That said, here’s a reality-check for those fawning over those 10,000 solar panels:

Most of the PIT microgrid’s power generation – 20 megawatts — comes from the natural gas wells fracked by Consol Energy. That plethora of solar panels produces only about one-seventh or 3 megawatts of the facility’s power. There are, however, plans to expand PIT’s solar-generation capacity, an official told the radio station.

Despite the innovation of the facility – not to mention the nod to the continuing importance of natural gas in electrical generation and its concomitant role in reducing pollution – the operation has raised the ire of at least one environmental group.

As WESA further reports, “Zach Barber, a clean air advocate with the environmental advocacy nonprofit Penn Environment, praised the airport microgrid project for its solar development and resilience. But he said he is concerned about the natural gas component.”

How so? Barber complains that while the PIT microgrid project is being billed as a “a sustainability project … any sustainability project that relies on fracking is like an umbrella with holes.”

“We know that fracking is a major source of climate change and pollution and dangerous contamination of our air and our water,” Barber claims. “And yet that is what this project does — commits us to 20 more years of fracking.”

To Barber’s first point:

It is a ludicrous can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees assertion given the facts of how natural gas has mitigated many of the problems the ecocrats claim it is only exacerbating.

Talk about “an umbrella full of holes.”

To Barber’s second point:

Hear! Hear! For it’s one of the few things that the bribe-them-with-public-money-and-they-will-come Allegheny County Airport Authority has gotten right.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (