Louisville’s airport breaks ground on largest-of-its-kind geothermal project

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 1:14 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 16, 2021 at 6:31 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The latest part of a $400 million investment at the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport is about to begin.

It will be one of the largest projects ever undertaken at the airport that travelers may never actually see.

This new $21 million geothermal project will include the drilling of almost 650 wells, hundreds of feet underground.

It will be used to replace the aged heating and cooling systems currently in use at the airport’s Jerry Abramson Terminal, and will be the largest of its kind at any airport in the country.

“As Muhammad Ali, whose name graces this airport, once said, a man who has no imagination has no wings,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said.

Just a few years ago, a project of this scale was only part of Dan Mann’s imagination. Now, it all just makes sense for Mann, the Louisville Regional Airport Authority’s executive director.

“It’s something we had to do,” he said. “When you can spend that money, reduce your costs and reduce your carbon footprint, it really made a lot of sense.”

Mann said the project will save upwards of $400,000 per year, lowering the airport’s energy output that currently sits at around $1.7 million.

Mann said it will reduce the airport’s carbon emissions by 80 percent. It will be built underneath a currently undeveloped nine-acre field. On top of that, crews will build a concrete parking lot for commercial jets, future airlines, or guests of the Kentucky Derby.

Mann described what they’re doing at the airport in one word: winning.

“I talk to my team, I say, ‘How are we winning today?’” Mann said. “It’s just fun, but when you actually get to do a project like this where it’s not just a slogan or a cliché, you’re actually doing it, it’s great.”

Part of the project has been made possible through a federal grant from the FAA called Voluntary Airport Low Emissions, or VALE.

It should be complete by fall 2022.

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