American renewable energy company ESS Inc., which manufactures energy storage systems for commercial use, has inked a deal with Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport to bring its iron flow battery technology and Energy Warehouse system onsite to help Schiphol reach its sustainability goals.

The Oregon-based company will provide cost-effective sustainable energy storage capabilities for utility-scale operations. Its systems can offer safe, non-toxic applications which will provide up to twelve hours of flexible energy capacity and have a 25-year design lifespan.

ESS iron flow battery technology – which uses only three common elements: iron, salt, and water – is capable of providing up to 12 hours of flexible energy capacity for commercial use. Not only are they non-toxic and environmentally safe, but they also pose no threat of fire or explosion risk, which makes them ideal for use around commercial aircraft, greatly reducing the need for firefighting equipment and hazmat precautions. The container-sized Energy Warehouse provides sustainable energy storage suited for multiple use cases, including utility-scale renewable energy.

Alan Greenshields, ESS director Europe, commented,

“The decarbonization of air travel is crucial and Schiphol is leading the way. We are proud to partner with a leading airport operator to demonstrate and pilot the key role that long-duration energy storage will play in helping to decarbonize airport operations and reduce ground level emissions, improving air quality for airport and airline employees and passengers.”

KLM aircraft parked at amsterdam

Photo: KLM

Ostensibly the system will be used on ground power units (GPU) which supply electrical power to parked aircraft. At the current time, Schiphol’s GPUs operate on diesel fuel. The Energy Warehouse system will allow the airport to recharge electrical ground power units (E-GPU), eliminating the need to burn diesel, all of which is part of Schiphol sustainability plan. Oscar Maan, manager of innovation at Royal Schiphol Group said,

“We hope that the partnership with ESS enables Schiphol to advance our electrification and decarbonization strategy. If this pilot is successful, this is a double win as it both reduces our carbon footprint and reduces air pollution.”

This pilot will also be part of TULIPS, a consortium that aims to advance aviation technology with a view to making aviation climate neutral by 2050

Lofty goals for sustainability

Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport is owned and operated by Royal Schiphol Group, which owns airports at Lelystad, Rotterdam The Hague and has a controlling interest in the airport at Eindhoven. Ranked as Europe’s fourth-busiest airport, in 2021, Amsterdam Schiphol handled 25.5M passengers and 1.7M tons of cargo with service to 296 destinations.

The group, which has committed itself to operating the world’s most sustainable, high-quality airports, has set some lofty goals for Amsterdam Schiphol. To meet these goals, they plan for zero-carbon emissions and zero waste from their own operations by 2030 and a net-zero carbon emissions goal for 2050.

In a plan called Vision 2050, the group outlines strategies to examine aviation’s contribution to climate change and sustainable development goals, develop goals to become energy positive, and advocate for sustainable aviation.

A KLM aircraft at Amsterdam airport

Photo: KLM

European Green Deal

To that end, the Royal Schiphol Group is leading the TULIPS consortium, which includes Amsterdam Schiphol, as well as airports in Oslo, Turin, and Larnaka. Funded as part of the European Green Deal, the consortium aims to speed up the rollout of sustainable technologies in aviation.

While emissions-free commercial aviation may still be in the future, the use of electric power in ground equipment is a step towards making airports more sustainable.


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