With the perennial power outage at the nation’s airports, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has been urged to explore solar energy as alternative means of power supply.
Last week FAAN and Nigeria were scandalised because during the peak period when many airlines were boarding their passengers there was power cut that left everyone in darkness.
This has prompted a call for FAAN to migrate to solar energy as a more reliable and cheaper source of power by stakeholders who said that many airports in the world have embraced solar power as major source of energy.
In an article he wrote about how some airports are developing solar energy to power their facilities, Andrew Tunnicliffe, an engineer with the Transport of London, said there were more than 100 airports that made use of solar power generation in some way and these include both small and large airports, adding that solar power is fast becoming the next big thing in airport infrastructure.
The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), recently hinted that it is developing solar power, which it would use at its outstations because it is becoming increasingly difficult to finance generating sets for power supply to its outside facilities located in different parts of the country due to high cost of fuel products.
But FAAN is yet to key into such project to reduce the cost of power generation and also to provide uninterrupted power to its airports.
Globally, airports that have completed the establishment of solar power or at the verge of competing such project include Melbourne Airport, Australia, Cochin International Airport, India, Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia, Chattanooga International Airport, US, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, US and Darwin International Airport, Australia.
Such alternative source of energy will expectedly end intermittent power cut that is prevalent to all the airports managed by FAAN.
Last week aviation industry stakeholders excoriated FAAN for the incessant power outage at the nation’s airports, especially at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, insisting that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria must compensate airlines, handling companies and others who use the airport facilities and pay rent and utility bills to the agency.
The stakeholders referred to a viral video which showed the moment international terminal of the Lagos airport was plunged into darkness due to sudden power cut.
The blackout which was reported to have lasted for three minutes, happened on Friday night, February 2, 2024, causing panic among passengers who were forced to continue their check-in using light from their mobile phones.
Reacting to the video in an official statement, FAAN said that the outage occurred during the process of switching power sources after losing electricity from the national grid, but stakeholders in the industry flayed the agency for not being proactive and ensuring that there was standby power supply in a situation where there was blackout.
Secretary General of Aviation Round Table (ART) Mr. Olumide Ohunayo observed that when natural or unnatural issues occur, outages are expected but when they happen, things should be put in place to mitigate its effect on passengers.
“Most outages bring total darkness and I would expect that when that happens, there should be standby bulbs that come on when everywhere goes dark to mitigate the effect. I am also not happy with the response from FAAN. Rather than be defensive, they should apologise for the inconvenience caused, because they have charged each passenger $100 and that is N140, 000 for using the airport. So, when there is an outage and you come out to start defending your actions, it is insulting. I don’t know how you can be confident to face the public who use your airport which is the most expensive in Africa. Apology should come before defense,” Ohunayo said.
FAAN has recorded too many incidents of power outage at the Lagos airport, which processes over 60 per cent of passenger throughout and is the busiest airport in the country.
Power cuts were frequent during the construction of the second international terminal at the airport because of the movement of underground cables, but the situation improved after that; yet the terminal still records occasional power outage.
Aviation security expert, John Ojikutu, said there should be consequences for FAAN anytime there is blackout at any airport. He said the Authority should be made to pay compensation to airlines and other services providers affected by the outages.
“Let there be consequences on the services providers. Let the services providers pay due compensation to those whose operations are disrupted by their services. Let the NCAA enforce regulations on failures or negligence of the critical services providers, especially on power supply. That is one major reason why FAAN cannot remain the provider of the major services for all the operators. Government should concession all the non-aeronautical services at the airports and return the aeronautical services to the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA). Make FAAN a holding company on the concessioned facilities and these should include passengers and cargo terminals, car parks, toll gates, land areas power supply, while runways, taxiways and their associated lightings should go to NAMA,” Ojikutu said.
Managing Director of Flight and Logistics Solutions Limited, Amos Akpan, observed that most Nigerian airports would do better if they were able to build their own power plant which would make the facilities reliable and reduce cost of maintenance caused by epileptic power supplies, suggesting that the airport could sell the extra power to its immediate environment for revenue.
“The way power is produced, transmitted and distributed in Nigeria is not suitable to plan airports with. The use of generators as standby power to the airport is not cost effective. Design and build a power plant to fit your airport city for long term purposes. I know an airport that has gas pipelines pass through it which they should tap to build their IPP, but they are using diesel generators, which is very costly and unreliable input to production of services,” Akpan said.
However, FAAN attributed the power cut to the automatic switch over, which did not respond to the signal at the loss of power in the terminal.
“The electrical team has identified the challenges with the automatic switch over and working judiciously to restore this immediately. We have put a plan in place leveraging the alternative sources of power to ensure we do not have a recurrence,” FAAN’s Director, Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, Mrs. Obiageli Orah, assured Nigerians.