Construction begins on state’s largest solar carport, will power JFK AirTrain and aid southeast Queens

Construction has begun at JFK as workers develop the state’s largest solar carport

Construction has begun on New York State’s largest onsite solar carport at JFK Airport’s Lot 9.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, along with leaders of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the New York Power Authority (NYPA), held a groundbreaking event at the airport site Tuesday. TotalEnergies, a solar power developer, is in charge of the project.

Once completed, the solar installation will generate electricity to power the AirTrain, while also helping to lower electricity costs for low-income residents in nearby Queens neighborhoods. The installation, designed to be a canopy, will provide covered parking for 3,000 vehicles.

The carport installation is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6,000 tons annually and produce 12 megawatts of on-site power. It is also set to reduce airport energy consumption at peak travel hours, supporting the Port Authority’s 2050 net zero emissions goal.

The developers will also use minority and women-owned businesses in the construction phase, meeting the 30% business requirement that the Port Authority said it would adhere to.

Rendering of the solar carport canopy.Rendering image courtesy of TotalEnergies

The officials at the groundbreaking said that the project would be built in two phases.

Phase 1 is expected to deliver energy to the airport starting in March 2025, and phase 2 is a community solar project that is slated to begin operating in April 2026. Phase 2 will involve a partnership with the NYS Community Distributed Generation program to deliver discounted clean energy to the surrounding community. The project is significant as it would provide electricity savings to historically disadvantaged residents in southeast Queens. 

Hochul said that the new green energy project will have a major impact on Queens. “We are breaking ground on a game-changing solar project, which will give power to the AirTrain and support thousands of families in Queens,” she said. “Supporting local minority- and women-owned businesses, this project will deepen our investment in the community while pushing forward New York’s nation-leading climate goals.” 

Elected officials and business leaders were on site at the development, voicing their support for the new project.  Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton added that the creation of the carport would aid the Port Authority’s net-zero goal and help neighboring communities. “When complete, a fully transformed JFK will take its place as a world-class airport that is efficient, beautiful and sustainable,” he said.

Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers (D-31) added that southeast Queens will soon be home to the state’s largest solar plus storage project. “This expansive project has the potential to be an invaluable addition for residents in my neighborhood by helping to cut utility costs and investing in renewable energy for our community,” she said.

The new project is considered to be a huge win for the Port Authority’s sustainability agenda. On-site solar projects are a major component of the agency’s overall sustainability program.

The Port Authority currently has several solar projects in operation. Some of the projects include a 5-megawatt solar parking canopy at Newark Airport, a 1.5-megawatt rooftop solar array on LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B garage, and a 600-kilowatt solar roof on a PATH warehouse rooftop. Additional solar projects are planned at JFK’s Terminal 1 and 6, including rooftop solar panels that will generate power at the airport.

The NYPA is also beginning a $4 million project with the Port Authority that includes installing energy-efficient LED fixtures throughout the airport’s Hangar 19 and replacing the AirTrain’s track heater controls. The new track heater installation will allow the Port Authority to monitor and control track heaters remotely at every AirTrain station. The projects are estimated to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than 960 metric tons.