Solar Powered Plane Traffic Control

Power sources in Alaska often need to be on site, and always need to be reliable no matter what the weather. Northern Power Systems of Vermont is supplying three power systems to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Capstone Ground Based Transceiver (GBT) program in Southeast Alaska, and they’ve added a solar photovoltaic (PV) array to one of the systems.

Waitsfield, Vermont – August 12, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] GBTs are designed to reduce the chances of mid-air collisions and weather-related accidents. The air-traffic systems transmit critical data such as aircraft elevation and location via satellite to the regional air traffic controllers. Northern’s turnkey solution for the PV site features a 7.2 kW array mounted on the roof of the system shelter. The array is designed to withstand winds of up to 120 miles per hour, and will generate enough energy to service approximately 66 percent of the FAA’s critical load. Dual 15 kW propane gas-fired generator sets will account for the remaining 34 percent of the load. The system is also equipped with a 4800 amp-hour battery bank. Sized to last for 12 years, the battery bank is capable of providing a nominal three days of system operation in the unlikely event that all three sources of power generation fail. Northern calculates that the system will consume approximately 530 U.S. gallons of liquid propane on an annual basis. Other systems do not include PV, but are array installation ready in the event the extra power source in needed. The remote power systems are capable of servicing the FAA’s total average continuous load of 900 watts, in addition to system environmental and system controller loads. “For obvious reasons, the FAA required a system that eliminates all single points of failure,” Mike Brennan said. Brennan is the vice president of Northern’s integrated power systems business unit. “To meet this requirement, we have designed a highly reliable, 24/7 power system that includes multiple sources of power generation, multiple rectifier banks and a Northern SC-300 system controller.”

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