Fiumicino in Rome is Italy's busiest airport and the venue for one of the Cascade pilot projects

Fiumicino in Rome is Italy’s busiest airport and the venue for one of the Cascade pilot projects

The EU is turning its energy spotlight on European airports in a bid to reduce their hvac energy needs and carbon emissions.

There are around 500 airports in the 28 European Union member states and all are big consumers of energy – and that’s before a plane takes off or lands. It is estimated that hvac systems are responsible for the consumption of around 50% of the energy used in airports.

The goal of a three-year EU Cascade project – ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) for Energy Efficient Airports – is to help airport managers reduce their energy needs and cut the CO2 emissions caused by their HVAC plants by 20% in the short term.

The nine Cascade partners, funded with €2.6m from the EC’s 7th Framework Programme, aim to do this by means of new software, coupled with an energy action plan based on the international management standard ISO 50001, and algorithms for fault detection and diagnostics. Using the Cascade system, faults can be detected quickly and automatically before the systems are damaged or fail, or too much energy is wasted, and thus help airport maintenance teams implement corrective actions and improve the performance of equipment in the plants.

Pilot projects

Rome’s Fiumicino and Milan’s Malpensa airports, the two biggest in Italy used by some 55 million passengers every year, were used as pilot projects. 

Focusing on the HVAC systems, especially the large air handling units, chiller plants and cooling towers the airports use, the project team installed hundreds of new sensors, meters and advanced data loggers at the two airports to step up measurement of parameters such as temperature, pressure, flow rates, electrical consumption, etc.

Engineers using this new measurement framework can control and benchmark equipment performance and optimise user behaviour. Coupling this to fault detection tools, they have been able to root out problems in scheduling (equipment running when it’s not needed), incorrect heating and cooling settings in different areas of the airport, poor positioning of sensors or actuators, lack of calibration or maintenance, unbalanced pipe and duct systems, and so on.

After the first six months of the pilot phase, the Cascade system has already detected some control and sensor faults in large air handling units that provide Fiumicino Terminal 1 with fresh air. Estimated savings of 500MWh, which corresponds to about 3,500 tons of CO2 or €70 000 a year, are achievable just by implementing low-investment measures like resetting the controls or replacing faulty sensors, the researchers found.

Commitment

Interest in the project is said to have extended across the EU. Airports Council International has committed its support to the proposal by providing a channel to demonstrate the results to 400 of the 500 EU-28 airports. The Cascade consortium hopes that through its network other airports will integrate the Cascade software tool into their energy management plans.