Athens International Airport

Charles Michael O’Connor, Manager Environmental Services, AIA

The perfect match: about Athens International Airport

It is clear to us that no airport can undertake its sustainability journey alone. Access to funding is critical, but equally important is access to expertise within the value chain. At the time of publication of the Call for Proposals for Green Airports, Athens International Airport was approached by a large number of organizations, including airport operators, consultants and academic institutions. However, the partnership with Brussels Airport Company came naturally; we collaborated before and feel that our sustainability visions and goals are well aligned. As the Stargate consortium slowly grew, we were confident that we could bring complementary expertise and experience to the project while at the same time enjoying the opportunity to learn and gain insight from the other partners.

Special expertise: solar energy

Athens International Airport relies on a solid expertise in solar energy. In 2011, we commissioned what was then the largest unified Photovoltaic Park (PVP) on an airport site. After more than a decade of successful operation and significant emission savings of about 25% of our electricity footprint, we are currently in the process of expanding the PVP. Our ultimate goal is to produce all required electricity onsite, thus becoming fully autonomous from the national grid within the timeframe of the Stargate project. In addition to our extensive experience in exploiting the sun for the benefit of our airport and the climate, we will also collaborate with our Stargate partners on other environmental challenges such as biodiversity protection.

Source of inspiration

The last few years have shown that the aviation industry is never short on challenges. Our industry is at a critical crossroad to prove that air travel can drastically reduce and even eliminate its negative impact on the climate. We feel the urge for this change to take place within the next one or two decades through tangible results. Fortunately, our industry’s response to the pandemic has illustrated that aviation can react quickly and collectively to address existential challenges. A crucial element for success will be access to the necessary resources that enable this transition.

Within the Stargate project, the original euphoria of being selected gives way to a lot of enthusiasm to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Although we cannot expect the sustainability problem to be solved within the 5-year term of Stargate, we do expect that significant progress will have been made on a number of important environmental challenges, facilitated by digitalisation. The dream outcome, if you will, is that our Lighthouse airport Brussels will shine a bright light upon the successful projects implemented on its premises and those of Athens, Toulouse and Budapest, as a source of inspiration for airports of all shapes and sizes in the European network and beyond.