Boeing plans net-zero facility for efficient new aircraft

New 787 final assembly facility will be 100 percent powered by renewablesBoeing South Carolina said this week that the facility where its new 787 Dreamliner passenger airplane is being assembled will be 100-percent powered by renewable energy. Roughly 20 percent of the energy will come from the 2.6-megawatt photovoltaic installation on its Boeing 787 Final Assembly building in New Charleston, S.C., with the rest of the power coming from a biomass-powered generating facility.

The final assembly building is a new structure on a relatively new Boeing campus, said Boeing South Carolina spokesperson Rob Gross.

“It was an opportunity to do something that’s one of our core initiatives. The fact that it’s a relatively new site and new facility gave us the opportunity to do something that we haven't been able to do at other sites,” he said.

The building is slated for completion later in 2011and will house thin-film laminate photovoltaics, which will be owned, installed and maintained by South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G), said Chris Villiers a spokesperson with Boeing’s EO&T Technical Integration division.

The array, the largest in the Southeast, could power approximately 250 homes, according to SCE&G. While Boeing is introducing its high-efficiency photovoltaics this year, they’re not being used for this facility, he said.

“The meter’s on our side, and I think [SCE&G] made the decision of which photovoltaics to put on the roof.”

Boeing could have stopped at leasing the solar rooftop, but the company made arrangements with SCE&G, a SCANA Corp. (NYSE: SCG) unit, to source 100 percent of the power used onsite from renewables. Other renewable power will come from SCE&G’s biomass generating capacity and from renewable energy credits.

The facility is also designed as a zero-waste facility.

And the Dreamliner itself is also much more sustainable than previous jets, using 20 percent less fuel and less hazardous materials in fabrication.

In fact, the plane could be run on biofuels being developed for the avionics industry. But then again, most planes could.

“The chemical mixture of the biofuel that’s being developed is the exact same as the petroleum fuel [used today],” Villiers said.
Boeing made the moves partly in response to its customers, Gross said.

“They want an environmentally responsible airplane and want to see that our operations are sustainable,” he said. “It makes sense that our operations are going to reflect the environmental responsibility of the airplane.”

Pictured: An artist’s rendering of Boeing new building, courtesy of SCE&G.