Researchers from the University of Denver conducted a study on solar energy panels installed in airports. Studying 488 public airports in the U.S., the researchers found that 20% of airports have adopted solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, or solar panels, in the last 10 years.

Airports are ideal for studying how institutional arrangements affect renewable energy deployment because of the big differences in general purpose and special purpose governments. The biggest difference is how board members are selected. An estimated 80% of general-purpose board members are elected, while 7% of special-purpose members are elected.

Airports operated by general-purpose governments deployed more solar panels than airports operated by special purpose governments. Solar deployment increases the professional organization membership with a higher rate for special purpose airports than general-purpose airports.

One of the airports they studied was the Denver International Airport. This airport has one of the largest solar projects in the U.S., installing 42,614 solar panels on 56 acres. This was a successful solar energy roll out because of city government support, airport leadership and a partnership with Xcel Energy.

DIA built an environmentally sustainable management system. The airport’s carbon footprint was reduced through this system with their 10 MW solar panel facilities. Any excess energy DIA produces is sold back to Xcel.

The study was published in Energy Policy.