For the past few months, passengers at Torino Airport have enjoyed charging their phones while keeping in shape through the Pila bike project. Situated in the airport’s departure area, the four charging points work through a universal USB charger that is connected to the bike.
By doing a bit of pre-flight exercise, passengers can charge their phones for free, sharing the energy produced with others as well.
As explained by Torino Airport CEO Andrea Andorno, the project was born out of a series of circumstances coming together. The first was how important charging devices has become for passengers, alongside other growing needs such as having a strong Wi-Fi connection.
“Demand has changed and needs are different, and being able to recharge phones has become the biggest priority,” he says.
Realising the need for green and accessible phone charging stations, in 2019 the Italian hub decided to partner with start-up incubator Torino City Lab. Through the partnership, Torino Airport found charging company Pradella Sistemi and together they developed the Pila Bike project.
“We decided to take the Pila concept further, [focusing] on something that could attract a certain type of passenger, someone that would love to produce the energy themselves,” Andorno continues.
“We loved the project on paper and [we were glad] that it worked in real life, especially when it comes to passengers’ feedback, who are enthusiastic about it.”
A bigger project: Torino Green Airport
The Pila bike is the latest in a series of initiatives developed as part of the Torino Green Airport project, a way for the hub to draw attention to its green initiatives.
“Torino Airport has been working for more than ten years behind the scenes on projects concerning energy efficiency and emission reduction,” Andorno explains. “Given that sustainability for us is such a fundamental objective, we have decided to create this Torino Green Airport brand to explain what we are doing, both internally and externally.”
To drive the change behind the approach to sustainability, airport authorities have decided to play with the concept, transforming the hub’s logo from blue to green.
“It’s important for people inside the company to know what has been done and we also want our passengers to know that the airport is working on limiting its environmental impact on neighbouring territories,” says Andorno.
Despite the recent birth of the Torino Green Airport brand, the hub’s focus on sustainability was born more than ten years ago.
As revealed by operations, development and maintenance director Lorenzo Gusman, after undergoing an upgrade because of the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics, in 2009 the airport’s infrastructure apparatus was twice as big.
The necessity then was to become energy efficient, limiting the waste and expenditure as well as the great volumes of energy used per passenger. By adopting an analytical approach to the airport’s energy problems, authorities focused on what could be fixed, making strategic choices that resulted in a reduction of costs and emissions.
“Every step we made brought with it a series of positive consequences that had a bigger impact in terms of sustainability,” says Gusman. “That brought forward a virtuous process to keep improving that had a big internal impact because wh ween saw we were getting results we realised that it was the right path all along.”
Old results, new projects
Apart from becoming the first airport in Italy to receive the ISO500001 standard for energy management, the airport decided to measure its results in a longer timeframe of a ten-year period. Between 2009 and 2019, Torino Airport reduced its general consumption of electricity by 32%, peaking at 45% when applied to the per passenger quota.
“If each passenger transiting through the airport in 2009 was consuming around 8kW of energy, in 2019 consumption was around 4kW,” continues Gusman. The airport also managed to reduce heating consumption and overall CO2 emissions by -20% and 45% respectively.
To continue its work towards net-zero, Torino Airport has been working on several projects, including an interventions programme that was put on hold because of Covid-19 and will be completed by 2023, as well as the introduction of Internet of Things and intelligent systems to better regulate the heating and lighting systems.
“We are also working on a project to reduce drinkable water consumption and waste by using industrial water in toilets, in addition to restructuring the airport’s aqueduct to avoid leakage,” adds Gusman.
The airport’s biggest project, explains Gusman, is the development of a smart grid that will help the hub become net-zero.
“Nobody is really sure about which energy source we will mostly use in the future – whether it’s local renewables such as wind and solar energy, micro turbines, or even hydrogen and nuclear fusion,” says the director.
To be ready for all scenarios, Torino Airport is working on a flexible smart grid that functions through a combination of different energy sources. Work will begin next year with the installation of two solar infrastructures as well as studies on biogas, hydrogen, and biomethane.
“With this system, we want to take advantage of the technologies that will be developed by the market in the next twenty years,” highlights Gusman. “We want a flexible system to help us cut emissions of not only CO2 but also NOx and carbon monoxide.” And Torino isn’t resting on its laurels, committing to further improve its environmental impact.
“This is the pathway and there aren’t any others available, airports must become net-zero.” With these words, Andorno explains that Torino Airport will continue to work on its sustainability projects, collaborating alongside international associations such as Airport Council International to reach objectives by 2030 and 2050.
“Our minimum objective for 2030 is a 60% reduction compared to 2009 levels of emissions, while we adhered to become net-zero by 2050,” explains Andorno. “As we are currently working on developing flexible systems, we will have to find the best way to anticipate the 2050 date.”