What to Consider When Creating an Airport Electrification Master Plan

May 10, 2023
Address crucial questions before you undertake plans to prepare for the future of electrification.
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Electrification of airports is becoming an increasingly important issue in the aviation industry due to the need to reduce carbon emissions and comply with sustainability goals. An electrification master plan can be an essential tool for airports to guide their transition to electric power systems.

A well-designed plan must consider several factors to ensure the successful implementation of electric technology in the airport's infrastructure. Here are some of the critical considerations airports must take into account when building an electrification master plan.

Burns & McDonnell National Aviation Director Chris Spann says advance planning to address the impacts of the electrification wave is crucial for several reasons.


Haphazardly adding circuits and outlets is a recipe for disaster. Proper planning is required to ensure that the electrical systems can handle the new loads and any new infrastructure is not only designed, installed, and maintained correctly to prevent electrical hazards, including electric shocks and fires, but allows for future growth.


The new electrical fleet of vehicles is fantastic….until the power goes out. Electrical master planning helps ensure that the airport's electrical infrastructure is reliable and able to support the increased demand for electricity from various electric vehicles, aircraft, and other electrical equipment. Proper planning helps to minimize the risk of power outages, which can disrupt airport operations and cause significant financial losses.


Widespread electrification in airports can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote environmental sustainability. Electrical master planning is essential to ensure that the airport's electrical infrastructure is designed to accommodate renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines, as well as electric vehicle charging stations.


Proper electrical master planning can help airports optimize their electrical infrastructure and reduce energy costs. On the front end, it can help reduce construction costs by making sure all the needs are met overall and logically. On the back end, it can also help identify opportunities for energy-efficient upgrades, which can further reduce operational cost.


Electrical master planning can help airports future-proof their infrastructure by anticipating future technological developments and ensuring that the electrical systems can adapt to new technologies and changing demands.

Energy Demand Analysis

Airports need to conduct an energy demand analysis to identify their energy consumption patterns, including peak demand periods before developing an electrification plan. Understanding energy usage allows airports to assess the suitability of various electrification technologies and prioritize areas for implementation. Energy demand analysis can also identify areas where energy conservation measures can be applied to reduce overall demand.

Spann said technology is advancing at such a rapid rate so it’s almost impossible to reliably predict what the future will hold, but there are some things to consider to prepare

Data Collection

Leaders should start by collecting accurate and comprehensive data on the airport's current energy use, including electricity, natural gas, and other fuel sources. They should also identify the energy consumption patterns of various airport facilities, such as terminals, airside operations, and support buildings.

Stakeholder Engagement

Airport leaders should engage with stakeholders, including airlines, tenants, and other partners, to understand their energy needs and future plans. This information will help leaders identify potential energy demand drivers and anticipate future energy needs.

Industry Standards

Airport leaders should refer to industry standards, such as ASHRAE and LEED, to help identify energy efficiency opportunities and benchmark their energy performance against similar facilities.

Climate Considerations

Airport leaders should consider the airport's climate, including local weather patterns, seasonal variations in energy demand, and the impact of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes or snowstorms, on energy use.

Technology Trends

Airport leaders should keep up-to-date with technology trends, including advancements in renewable energy, energy storage, and energy management systems. Understanding these trends will help leaders anticipate future energy demands and identify potential energy savings opportunities. 

Regulatory Requirements

Airport leaders should consider regulatory requirements related to energy use and emissions, such as carbon reduction targets and building codes. Compliance with these requirements can impact energy demand and future planning.

Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure

As electric vehicles (EVs) become more prevalent, airports must have charging infrastructure in place to cater to the needs of travelers and staff. The electrification plan should consider the location, type, and capacity of the charging stations required, including level 1, 2, and 3 charging systems. Level 1 charging systems provide a low charge, while level 2 and 3 charging systems provide faster charging rates.

Airports must consider the charging infrastructure's scalability to cater to the increasing number of EVs in the future. They must also ensure that the charging infrastructure is compatible with multiple EV models and charging protocols to provide flexibility to users.

“For those old enough to remember the VHS/Betamax dilemma, putting all your eggs in a single technology format is dangerous,” Spann says. “Flexibility is the key.”

Airports should consider the charging speed required for different EV models and the needs of their passengers. This can range from slower Level 1 charging--which can take up to 8 hours to fully charge a vehicle--to fast Level 3 charging--which can take as little as 30 minutes. Installing a mix of charging speeds can accommodate the needs of different EV models and help minimize wait times for charging.

Spann says there are different charging port types required for different EV models. The most common port types are the J1772 (used by most electric cars) and the CCS (used by many fast-charging stations). Some models, such as Teslas, require a proprietary connector. Spann says installing a mix of charging port types can accommodate the needs of different EV models.

The location of charging stations within parking facilities is a key area for consideration. Ideally, charging stations should be placed in high-traffic areas near building entrances and exits, with easy access to parking spaces.

“Optimally, the user experience would be the key determining factor in the choice of charging infrastructure, including ease of use, payment options, and access control,” Spann says. “Providing a seamless and user-friendly charging experience can help promote EV adoption and increase customer satisfaction. Working with products that the airport is familiar with and satisfied with would be ideal.”

The EV wave is going to continue to grow, so airports should consider the scalability of their charging infrastructure to accommodate future growth in EV adoption. Installing a modular and expandable charging infrastructure can help airports easily add new charging stations as demand increases.

Spann recommends a mix of levels 1, 2 and 3 charging infrastructure for airport parking operations.

Level 1 charging uses a standard household outlet and delivers up to 1.4 kW of power, which can fully charge a typical EV in 8-12 hours. Considerations for Level 1 charging in an electrification master plan may include:

·       Ensuring that parking facilities have adequate electrical infrastructure to support Level 1 charging, such as grounded outlets, circuits, and breakers.

·        Providing clear guidance to EV owners on the safe use of Level 1 charging equipment, such as using a dedicated circuit, using a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), and avoiding the use of extension cords.

·        Determining the optimal location and number of Level 1 charging stations based on parking demand and availability of electrical infrastructure.

Level 2 charging uses a dedicated charging station and delivers up to 19.2 kW of power, which can fully charge a typical EV in 4-8 hours. Considerations for Level 2 charging in an electrification master plan may include:

·        Ensuring that parking facilities have adequate electrical infrastructure to support Level 2 charging, such as dedicated circuits, transformers, and switchgear.

·        Selecting charging stations with appropriate power output and port types to accommodate different EV models.

·        Providing access control and payment systems to manage charging station use and revenue.

·        Incorporating Level 2 charging stations into an energy management system to optimize charging schedules and minimize peak demand charges.

Level 3 charging, also known as DC fast charging, uses high-powered charging stations and delivers up to 350 kW of power, which can charge an EV to 80% capacity in 30 minutes or less. Considerations for Level 3 charging in an electrification master plan may include:

·        Ensuring that parking facilities have adequate electrical infrastructure to support Level 3 charging, such as high-voltage transformers and switchgear.

·        Selecting charging stations with appropriate power output and port types to accommodate different EV models.

·        Providing access control and payment systems to manage charging station use and revenue.

·        Coordinating with other Level 3 charging providers in the region to avoid overbuilding and ensure interoperability.

Electric Ground Support Equipment

Electric GSE is an essential component of airport electrification plans as they have the potential to reduce carbon emissions, noise pollution, and operational costs. The electrification master plan must consider the type, number, and capacity of the electric GSE required to support airport operations. The plan must also consider the charging infrastructure required to support the electric GSE.

Airports must assess the feasibility of retrofitting existing GSE with electric technology or replacing them with new electric GSE. They must also consider the operational and maintenance costs associated with electric GSE compared to traditional fossil fuel-powered GSE.

“At the end of the day, the on-Airport stakeholders are going to be the primary user of the electrification system, so coordination with each of them is key to success,” Spann says.  

Airports should collaborate with GSE providers to ensure the electrification plans are feasible and that GSE providers are prepared to deliver electric equipment. This collaboration should start in the planning phase and should continue through implementation and operation.

Airports need to evaluate their electrical infrastructure and capacity to ensure that they can handle the additional demand from electrified GSE. Upgrades to the electrical system may be required to accommodate the increased demand.

Airports need to determine the charging needs for electrified GSE, including the charging speed, port types, and locations. They should consider the needs of different types of GSE, such as aircraft tugs, baggage loaders, and passenger buses, and ensure that charging infrastructure is available in convenient and accessible locations.

Airports need to develop an implementation plan that includes timelines, budgets, and stakeholder responsibilities. This plan should outline the steps required to implement the electrification plan, including the installation of charging infrastructure, the procurement of electric GSE, and the training of GSE operators.

Airports need to establish an operations and maintenance plan that includes regular maintenance and inspection of the charging infrastructure and GSE. This plan should also include protocols for addressing malfunctions and repairing equipment.

Spann says airports need to consider the environmental impacts of electrified GSE, such as the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and noise. They should also consider the potential impacts on local communities and wildlife habitats.

Power Supply and Distribution

Airports must consider the power supply and distribution infrastructure required to support electrification plans. The plan must assess the capacity and reliability of the power supply to ensure that it can support the increased energy demand from electrification technologies. The plan must also consider the distribution infrastructure required to distribute power to different areas of the airport, including charging stations, terminals, and GSE depots.

Airports must consider the availability of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind to power electrification technologies. They must also consider the feasibility of integrating energy storage systems such as batteries and fuel cells to improve the reliability and resilience of the power supply.

When planning for widespread electrification at an airport, Spann says there are several power supply considerations that need to be addressed. Here are some of the key considerations:

Electrical Grid Capacity

Airports need to evaluate the capacity of the local electrical grid to ensure that it can handle the increased demand from electrified ground support equipment (GSE) and electric vehicles. If necessary, airports may need to work with local utility companies to upgrade the grid infrastructure to accommodate the increased demand.

Electrical Infrastructure Upgrades

Airports need to evaluate the existing electrical infrastructure and determine if any upgrades or modifications are necessary to support electrified GSE and electric vehicles. This may include upgrading transformers, switchgear, and cabling to accommodate higher voltage and amperage loads.

Distributed Energy Resources

Airports may consider incorporating distributed energy resources (DERs) into their electrification plans, such as solar photovoltaic (PV) systems or energy storage systems. These resources can provide renewable energy and improve energy resilience, but they need to be integrated carefully into the electrical system to ensure their compatibility and reliability.

Energy Management Systems

Airports may consider implementing energy management systems (EMS) to optimize their electrical demand and minimize peak loads. EMS can help airports manage their energy consumption, charge electric vehicles and GSE efficiently, and reduce energy costs.

Emergency Backup Power

Airports need to ensure that they have reliable emergency backup power systems in place to ensure continuity of operations in the event of a power outage. This may include backup generators or energy storage systems.

Environmental Impact

Airports need to consider the environmental impacts of their electrification plans, such as the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. They should also consider the potential impacts on local wildlife and habitats.

Spann says a microgrid is not always a necessary element for electrification master planning, but it can be a useful tool for airports to achieve their sustainability goals and improve energy resilience. Some considerations to help determine if a microgrid is necessary for an airport's electrification master plan include:

Energy Resilience

Microgrids can help improve energy resilience by providing backup power during power outages or other emergencies. If the airport is located in an area that experiences frequent power outages or is vulnerable to natural disasters, a microgrid may be necessary to ensure continuity of operations.

Energy Cost Savings

Microgrids can also help airports save on energy costs by generating their own electricity and reducing their reliance on the grid. If the airport has high energy costs or is located in an area with high electricity rates, a microgrid may be a cost-effective option.

Renewable Energy Integration

Microgrids can be designed to integrate renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power. If the airport has sustainability goals or wants to reduce its carbon footprint, a microgrid can help achieve these goals by incorporating renewable energy.

Grid Stability

Microgrids can improve the stability of the local electrical grid by reducing demand during peak periods and providing additional capacity during emergencies. If the airport is in an area with an unstable grid, a microgrid may help improve grid stability.

Electrical Load Management

Microgrids can also be used to manage electrical loads and optimize energy consumption. This can help airports reduce their energy costs and improve energy efficiency. 

Regulatory Compliance

Airports must comply with local, state, and federal regulations when developing their electrification master plan. They must consider regulations related to environmental protection, safety, and emissions control. They must also consider the regulatory requirements related to the installation and operation of charging infrastructure and electric GSE.

Airports must also consider the impact of regulatory changes and updates on their electrification plans. They must ensure that their plan is adaptable to regulatory changes and can support compliance with new regulations.

Trying to predict future legislation can be an exercise in frustration. However, preparing for potential regulatory changes is an important consideration for airports as part of their electrification planning. Some steps Spann recommends airports can take to prepare for potential regulatory changes are:

Stay informed: Airports should stay up-to-date on relevant regulatory developments and changes that could impact their electrification plans. This includes monitoring relevant federal, state, and local regulations and policies related to electrification, renewable energy, and sustainability.

Engage with regulators: Airports can engage with regulators to provide input on proposed regulations and policies and advocate for policies that align with their electrification plans and sustainability goals.

Build flexibility into plans: Airports can build flexibility into their electrification plans to accommodate potential regulatory changes. This may include designing infrastructure and systems that can adapt to changes in regulations and policies.

Collaborate with stakeholders: Airports can collaborate with stakeholders such as airlines, ground handlers, and other partners to ensure their electrification plans align with industry standards and best practices. This can help prepare for potential regulatory changes and ensure that the airport's electrification plans are viable and sustainable.

Implementation Timeline and Budget

Spann says the timeline for implementing an electrification master plan will depend on many factors: the size of the airport, the specific goals and scope of the plan, the urgency of implementation, as well as factors such as funding availability, regulatory requirements, and stakeholder engagement. Some general considerations for a realistic timeline include:

Planning Phase

The planning phase for an electrification master plan can take several months to a year or more, depending on the complexity of the plan and the level of stakeholder engagement. During this phase, the airport will assess its current energy use, identify electrification opportunities, set goals, and develop a roadmap for implementation.

Design and Engineering Phase

The design and engineering phase will typically take several months to a year, depending on the scope of the electrification projects identified in the master plan. This phase will involve detailed design and engineering work for specific projects, such as charging infrastructure, GSE electrification, and energy storage systems.

Implementation Phase

The implementation phase will vary depending on the specific projects identified in the master plan, but can take several years for large-scale infrastructure projects. This phase will involve procurement, construction, and installation of infrastructure and equipment, as well as testing and commissioning.