Pittsburgh International Airport (PIA) has awarded a 20-year contract to utility Peoples Natural Gas to build and operate a microgrid to power its entire campus.

The microgrid would be powered by Marcellus Shale wells on airport property that are operated by CNX Resources Corp., natural gas from the interstate pipeline system and solar panels that would be installed. It would be the first microgrid to power a major airport in the United States with resources available on site, according to PIA, which serves more than nine million passengers annually.

The microgrid would become the airport’s primary power supply and replace electricity purchased from the wholesale grid. A connection would still be maintained to back up the facility. The microgrid would consist of five natural gas-fired generators and 7,800 solar panels capable of producing more than 20 MW, or enough to power 13,000 residential homes. PIA’s current peak demand is 14 MW.

The system is expected to enter service in the summer of 2021 and power a hotel, the airport and a gasoline service station.

In 2013, the Allegheny County Airport Authority leased 9,200 acres at PIA to CNX, where the company planned to develop six pads and 45 Marcellus wells. Production started in 2016. CNX spokesman Brian Aiello said the plans for the property remain the same. He added that there are 14 producing wells at the airport in addition to another six drilled but uncompleted wells.

PIA officials, who have been considering the microgrid since last year, said it would come at no cost to the airport. Peoples is making the $30 million investment to build the facility. The utility, which serves 740,000 homes and businesses in Kentucky, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, has continued to explore various technologies for the natural gas it distributes.  PIA officials said the microgrid would not only save money, but increase reliability and sustainability.

Distributed power developer IMG Energy Solutions, along with EIS Solar, which is to install the panels, and construction firm PJ Dick and LLI Engineering are also involved in the project.