May 23, 2024

Electric Aircraft: Grid Upgrades, On-Site Generation and Storage to be Key Factors

A recent report highlights the growing importance of grid upgrades, on-site generation, and storage solutions for the development of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conducted an analysis for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to assess the impact of eVTOL operations on the power grid infrastructure.

The study, titled the Federal Aviation Administration Vertiport Electrical Infrastructure Study, outlines the significant charging demand that eVTOLs would place on the existing power grid. According to NREL researcher Bharat Solanki, the surge in demand could necessitate upgrades to transformers, lines, voltage regulators, and protection equipment.

The report suggests that utilities should engage early in the planning process to address the increased demand from vertiports, which could potentially boost site demand by six to seven times. To mitigate the strain on grid infrastructure, the study proposes solutions such as on-site generation, energy storage, and the use of microgrids.

Furthermore, the authors recommend locating vertiports closer to existing loads to minimize the impact on overall demand. By incorporating renewable energy sources and leveraging low-demand periods, the eVTOL infrastructure could reduce emissions and improve economic viability. The study also highlights the potential job creation and GDP enhancement associated with the development of vertiport facilities.

In addition to grid upgrades, the report underscores the importance of addressing safety hazards associated with high-power equipment in dynamic environments like airports. The NREL report emphasizes the need for standardized protocols to mitigate risks related to human errors, technology failures, weather patterns, and cybersecurity threats.

Looking ahead, NREL has released tools like the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure—Energy Estimation and Site Optimization (EVI EnSite) tool to assist utilities in planning optimal charging configurations. While an aviation-specific infrastructure tool is in development, utilities can utilize the REopt tool to determine the most efficient mix of renewable energy resources.

Overall, the report serves as a comprehensive guide for the FAA in regulating the burgeoning eVTOL industry, emphasizing the need for infrastructure investments, hazard mitigation, and cybersecurity measures. NREL remains committed to collaborating with the FAA to advance hydrogen-powered infrastructure and enhance energy efficiency and resilience in aviation facilities.

*Note:
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it