Over the years, East Midlands Airport, located in Castle Donnington, has invested a great deal of money in sustainable technologies, new power sources, and ‘eco-awareness’ events, such as the Big Green Week held during October 2010. The airport is now attempting to harness the power of the elements, by investing in two giant (45m) wind turbines. Officials hope that the twin windmills will generate around 5% of the airport’s power needs.
Described as a “significant investment for the airport and the environment” by Neil Robinson, East Midlands’ chief of sustainability, the turbines, due to be completed in March 2011, will remain at the site for two decades. The Leicestershire hub is the first major airport in the UK to have installed more than one wind turbine on its grounds. The only other site that comes close is Bristol Airport, which recently completed work on a single 20m tall windmill.
Airports are often obliged to develop and install eco-friendly technologies, due to the high levels of pollution produced by low-flying aeroplanes, but airports and windmills are poor bedfellows. Turbines, especially when clustered together, can mask the radar signature of an approaching aircraft, hiding the plane beneath ‘clutter’. Officials at East Midlands have not mentioned how this problem will be overcome, but other airports, such as Kent, were forced to spend millions of pounds on new equipment to keep radar screens clear.
Work on East Midland’s newest investments has only just begun, with “ground clearance and foundation work” forming the majority of the work conducted in January 2011. The airport has permission from Leicester City Council to build two more turbines, though it is currently unknown if the remaining structures will be built before 2030, when the first two windmills are decommissioned.
Staying with the theme of weather, East Midlands Airport is to spend £3m on new snow-clearing equipment over the next few years, in a bid to prevent the chaos that ensued after the heavy snowfall in December 2010. The Castle Donnington hub, unlike Doncaster, Edinburgh, and Heathrow, was not closed during the snowstorms, but a number of flights were subjected to delays. Brad Miller, chief executive at the airport, said that clearance crews “need the tools to do the job”.