SAT to Work with the Department of Energy on the Future of Electrified Airports

April 15, 2024
San Antonio International Airport signed a memorandum of understanding with other stakeholders which outlines collective efforts to develop and promote technologies including sustainable aviation, battery technologies and battery storage solutions, enhanced EV charging and power demand management technologies.

San Antonio International Airport (SAT) made history earlier this month by becoming the first international airport to work with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) on energy technologies to decarbonize the aviation sector.

SAT signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with ARPA-E, CPS Energy and the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). The MOU outlines collective efforts to develop and promote technologies that include, but are not limited to, sustainable aviation, battery technologies and innovative battery storage solutions, enhanced electric vehicle (EV) charging and power demand management technologies.

“This is an important agreement with the potential to shape the aviation industry of the future,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “Researching the decarbonization of aviation and finding new sustainable energy models is important work, and I am proud San Antonio will be playing a leading role in this cutting-edge research.”

Jesus Saenz, director of airports, City of San Antonio Aviation Department, said the unique partnership is designed to promote transformative energy technologies and it propels SAT to the center of innovation.

“This is truly a team effort – working with our community partners for the future of electrified airports,” Saenz said.

ARPA-E director Evelyn Wang, UTSA president Dr. Taylor Eighmy and CPS Energy vice president of customer value Karma Nilsson joined the mayor and Saenz to sign the MOU at Stinson Municipal Airport (SSF).

“We are excited at this opportunity to collaborate and showcase innovative energy technologies that could transform the future of aviation,” said Wang. “The MOU signing is a step in the right direction to ensuring that these innovative technologies are developed, built, and integrated in America. We hope that this partnership will lay the groundwork to enable future electrified airports.”

Rudy Garza, president and CEO of CPS Energy, said CPS continues to look for ways to participate in electrification projects, especially for critical public infrastructure.

“We are proud to be a part of this innovative initiative that will ultimately benefit the San Antonio community,” Garza said. “Projects like these further our commitment to finding new and sustainable technologies to enable our growing community and we are excited about the opportunity to work with our community partners to do so.”

Eighmy said it’s an incredible opportunity to partner with strategic industry leaders in evaluating electric aircraft, advanced energy storage and micro-grid systems to advance the adoption of sustainable multi-modal transportation technologies.

“Together, this collective will accelerate discoveries that will positively impact the local and regional economies while advancing technologies that change the world,” Eighmy said.

To mark this historic milestone, the following ARPA-E-funded project teams showcased their technologies to share how their innovations could be integrated into future electrified airports:

  • Ampaire, which is setting new standards for sustainable air travel and eco-friendly transportation solutions, flew its cutting-edge hybrid electric EEL aircraft;
  • Imagen Energy showcased ultrafast, compact electric vehicle chargers delivering efficient and cost-effective power solutions;
  • Natron Energy featured sodium-ion batteries that can safely store energy and efficiently deliver power on demand;
  • AutoGrid discussed a distributed energy resource management system that can help grid operators manage energy supply and demand fluctuations;
  • Quidnet Energy brought a wellhead to illustrate a modular geomechanically pumped storage system that can utilize existing natural resources to store renewable energy over long durations; and
  • Texas A&M University Research Team presented 3D-printed models of a motor and shared concepts for advancing efficiency in electric transportation.

UTSA and CPS Energy also presented research to leverage a city-scale grid digital twin to evaluate operational efficacy, ensure seamless interoperability, fortify cybersecurity protocols and assess performance metrics of electric/hybrid aircraft.

The MOU enables collaboration to identify research, development, demonstration and deployment opportunities that will promote sustainable aviation technologies.