Mineta San José International Airport (SJC) has been awarded a $4.6m grant to install airport and ground service equipment that will help improve local air quality.

The grant awarded under the Federal Aviation Administration’s voluntary airport low-emissions (Vale) programme, will help fund the installation of pre-conditioned air and electrical power upgrades at 13 airport gates in Terminal A.

This will reduce the need for diesel equipment and aircraft engine operations while aircraft are parked at the gate. SJC is the first airport west of Houston to receive a VALE grant, and so far only nine other airports have received VALE grants.

San José Mayor, Chuck Reed said that the airport had a strong commitment to clean air and energy efficiency.

“The San José green vision encourages our staff and partners to find creative ways and new resources to achieve our community’s goals for sustainability,” Reed said.

Together with the VALE grant, SJC will supervise the design and construction of its new terminal to achieve LEED sustainability certification; through using recycled water, water conservation landscaping; energy conservation; solid waste recycling; and other pollution prevention measures.

The combined airport emissions from aircraft operations and ground support equipment typically represent less than five percent of regulated emissions in California. Surface transportation sources such as cars and trucks account for approximately 90% of total emissions. The VALE grant will help the SJC to reduce greenhouse gases by more than 360t over the next 13 years.

In addition to the Terminal A gates that will be retrofitted using grant funds, the remainder of SJC’s aircraft gates will be equipped with pre-conditioned air units as a result of the airport’s modernisation programme and new terminal construction currently under way. All 28 gates will be equipped when the new airport opens in summer 2010, which will further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from airport operations.

The total cost for the terminal electrical upgrades and pre-conditioned air units for the 13 gates is $6,052,310. Under the VALE programme, the federal government pays 75% of the eligible project cost. San José’s 25% share of the project cost is $1.5m.

By Daniel Garrun.