Between landscape conservation, agriculture and aviation: Environmental and climate protection measures at Nuremberg Airport

At Albrecht Dürer Airport Nuremberg, conservation does not end at the perimeter fence, nor with the achievement of certain goals. For 20 years, they have been steadily improving sustainability. There is no single concept or one-off catalogue of measures to be drawn up and implemented, but rather a number of projects ranging from electromobility to renaturation that are all the more varied and comprehensive. The airport aims to be CO2-neutral by 2050.

A few weeks ago, the airport put its first electric pushback vehicle into service. One year earlier, in March 2019, NUE had already made a name for itself when it became the first airport in Germany to fully convert its tractor fleet for baggage and freight transport to e-mobility. The six Jungheinrich trucks can tow up to 28 tons. This makes the e-mobility package almost complete, as the trucks used for aircraft handling, cleaning and operations on the apron are also electrically powered.

Electromobility is an important step, but it is by no means the only one NUE is taking towards achieving CO2 neutrality, which they are aiming for in 2050. For more than 20 years, the airport has been consistently implementing measures for sustainable airport operations. No overall concept has been developed to be implemented in the long term, but over the course of time, new fields of activity are continuing to crystallize.

The electric tractor fleet at Nuremberg Airport was put into operation a year ago.
Reducing CO2 means saving energy or producing it in a CO2-neutral way. Nuremberg Airport does both. For two years now, the airport has consistently relied on green electricity and in some cases even generated it itself. For example, photovoltaic systems were installed on three aircraft hangars, which generated a total of 234.3 MWh of electricity in 2019. In 2019, the airport had a total demand of 19 GWh. NUE has also identified energy saving potential: “By converting the car park lighting to LEDs, which we did successively, we save 1.6 million kWh of electricity,” says press spokesman Jan Beinssen. For this measure, almost 4,000 lights (including those on the car park forecourt) were replaced in the three car parks.

Agriculture as a Partner

NUE receives support with its heat supply from the neighborhood: farmer Peter Scherzer supplies the airport with district heating from his wood chip thermal power plant, which thus not only heats his greenhouses, but also parts of the airport. The amount of heat supplied can be as much as 4300 kilowatts – the equivalent of that required to heat 360 detached homes. The airport covers about 90% of the remaining demand with natural gas, and heating oil is used for peak demand. Heat recovery also plays a role here. TÜV Bayern and the Nuremberg Trade Inspectorate regularly confirm that pollutant emissions are well below the permissible limits. In 2003, the airport also became one of the first in Germany to use bee colonies for biomonitoring by analyzing their honey for pollutants. Here, too, the airport stays within the limits.

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The members of the German Airports Association (ADV) developed a joint strategy for climate protection as early as 2009. In the ADV, the airports regularly exchange information about the best measures to be taken and thus achieve similar successes. From 2010 to 2018, the ADV airports reduced CO2 emissions by 24%. By 2030, they are aiming for a joint CO2 reduction of 50%, and by 2050, CO2 emissions should be zero.

Nuremberg Airport has also changed the management of its grassy areas around the runway, where for a long time, farmers from the neighborhood mowed and fed the grass. The airport’s environmental department is now converting these into sandy areas by dispensing with fertilization and humus removal and putting in sand, and by mowing the grass to a residual height of 20 centimeters. The grass cuttings will continue to be used as animal feed or put into a biogas plant. The existing heathers are planted further apart so that they can spread. These measures not only create habitats for rare plants and insects, but also reduce the attractiveness of the environment for birds – and thus the risk of bird strikes.

But environmental protection does not end at the airport fence. With the renaturation of the Bucher Landgraben, the airport has created the largest green space in Nuremberg in recent times, with a smooth transition from the airport to its agricultural surroundings. A forest has been cultivated, which is interspersed with new footpaths and cycle paths.

The airport has been using honeybees for biomonitoring since 2003.

Waste Consulting for Employees and Tenants

Implementing sustainability in a business can only ever be done in partnership with people, which is why the airport also encourages environmentally-friendly behavior in its employees, tenants and passengers. This begins with waste separation and waste avoidance. The airport’s waste management officer assists employees and tenants alike in all matters relating to waste disposal. An individual waste and disposal concept is drawn up for larger events.

The residents living close to Nuremberg Airport can find out the latest news on the subject of sustainability at the Airport Festival, which takes place every two years. An “Environmental Village” not only presents the airport’s specialist department, it is also a forum for authorities, associations and environmental protection organizations. Information is also provided on the intranet and tenant network. “Projects relating to climate protection, environmental protection or energy consumption will continue to be relevant in the coming years,” says press spokesman Jan Beinssen.

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Text by Corinna Panek
Photos: Flughafen Nürnberg

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