On a peninsula at the tip of Germany’s southern coast is a sustainable solar-powered airfield. It’s the world’s largest solar power field, thanks to around 5,300 photovoltaic panels that have been up since 2014. Here, the sun burns all day long, solar farms turn the heat of that sun into electricity that powers our everyday lives, and the land beneath them is protected from falling back into the sea.
More than a decade ago, however, city authorities there began to question how they could develop the area any further without spoiling its wildlife.
In hopes of ensuring ecological balance, Cologne International Airport (DIA) has outfitted the area around its runways with 13 acres of solar panels, as well as protective slopes on the perimeter, in order to protect the area from soil erosion.
The airport’s solar fields have more than offset the losses from land clearing, and in the three years since DIA began its partnership with the city to explore how solar energy could be developed in the area, the airport has saved €5.1 million ($5.8 million) in energy costs.
The airport installed the panels – some up to 30 feet across – in order to reach its target of producing 30% of its energy from renewable sources by the end of this year.