Show Us the Green... And We Will Show You the Money

With assistance from the New York Power Authority’s ground support projects, several airlines and New York airports have started to change the air quality and reduce carbon emissions by “going green.”


The New York Power Authority (NYPA) is the largest and completely state-owned power organization in the nation. With 18 operating plants, NYPA provides nearly 22 percent of the lowest-cost, predominantly hydro-powered electricity in New York State. Following its mission to provide clean, economical and reliable energy while promoting energy efficiency and innovation for the benefit of its customers, NYPA not only provides electricity to New York City government entities such as hospitals, schools, libraries and transit, but has also been working closely with New York airports for the past seven years.

“Though we have a relationship with the airlines, it is one step removed,” explains John Markowitz, electric transportation engineer, New York Power Authority. “We supply power to some of the airports (Westchester County, La Guardia and JFK) and our mandate, being a public entity, is to help the environment and reduce the use of imported fuels.”

In the Beginning
NYPA is one of the leading experts in the US to demonstrate the advantage of implementing electric drive technologies, according to Brian Warner, director of policy analysis and external communications for NYPA. “The Power Authority is cognizant and we are promoters of demonstrating the need to shift the transportation sector to electric drive technologies,” Warner says. “We view our penetration into the airport support vehicle market as a portion of our overall mission to protect the environment and we have demonstrated through a variety of our projects that electric drive technology works best and is the easiest transition for support vehicles.”

NYPA supplies power to both JFK and LaGuardia airports and in 2001 was in the process of working on a proposal for a federal grant with Delta and American Airlines in cooperation with the airports. The Power Authority teamed with one of its electric customers, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to apply for a Federal Aviation Authority grant under what was then known as ILEAV (Inherently Low Emission Airport Vehicle).

“[American Airlines and Delta Airlines] were going to electrify most of their fleet of bag tugs and belt loaders at those two airports and it was a very large project,” Markowitz, says. “Of course then Sept. 11 came, the project was tabled, and the airlines struggled at that point just to keep surviving.”

New Answers, Same Obstacles
Though the project remained dormant until 2003, at which time discussions with the Power Authority and the airlines were resurrected, interim research revealed to Markowitz the tremendous role that ground support equipment could play in terms of meeting NYPA’s clean air goals.

Research found that one tug emits 54 tons of greenhouse gases and expends 3,248 gallons of diesel per year. “Because of the old engines, operating a diesel-powered tug is about the same as driving 46 standard vehicles on the road,” Markowitz says. “And the fact that the GSE technology has reached maturity, made airport ground support vehicles an attractive target for us.”

According to Markowitz, even when taking into account the power plant emissions fueling the vehicles; on average, using electricity makes a vehicle 90 percent cleaner and 75 percent less expensive to operate.
“We tried to get the FAA grants rolling once again — with either LaGuardia, JFK or Delta and American,” Markowitz says, “but due to the financial status of the airlines at the time and complications trying to get contracts to work with the FAA, we ended up paring the project down to one airline — Delta, with a focus on just the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia.”

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