Nashville International Airport Wins 2019 Speas Airport Award for Geothermal Lake Plate Cooling System Written 28 January 2019

CONTACT: John Blacksten

January 28, 2019 – Reston, Va. –The world’s largest aerospace professional society, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) congratulates the Nashville International Airport as the 2019 winner of the Jay Hollingsworth Speas Airport Award for its Geothermal Lake Plate Cooling System. 

The Nashville International Airport (BNA) won the award “For creatively transforming a nearby quarry into the largest geothermal lake plate cooling system in North America to provide a sustainable source of water for the airport’s terminal cooling and irrigation needs.” 

The Speas Airport Award is cosponsored by AIAA, the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), and the Airport Consultants Council (ACC). 

Robert Ramsey, chief operating officer of the Nashville International Airport, will accept the award on behalf of the airport during the 2019 ACC/AAAE Airport Planning, Design and Construction Symposium, 20–22 February 2019, at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel in Denver, Colorado, USA. The awards luncheon is scheduled for Thursday, 21 February. 

The AIAA/AAAE/ACC Jay Hollingsworth Speas Airport Award honors an individual or individuals judged to have contributed most significantly in recent years to the enhancement of relationships between airports and/or heliports and other surrounding environments via exemplary innovation that might be replicated elsewhere. 

“This is a remarkable project for its scope, ingenuity and efficiency,” said Rob Wigington, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority. “The Airport Authority is committed to making sustainability an integral part of our business model. Not because sustainability is easy—rather, it is often a complex process—but because the benefits to our airports, the region and our environment are overwhelmingly positive. This historic project will significantly reduce our electricity usage and potable water consumption, which will result in substantial annual utility savings. This is the very essence of sustainability.” 

The project began in 2010 when the Federal Aviation Administration selected the Nashville International Airport as one of only 10 airports across the country to participate in the Sustainable Master Plan pilot program. As part of the program, Nashville International Airport developed and completed its first-ever Sustainability Master Plan in 2012. 

The airport broke ground in October 2015 on the largest geothermal lake plate cooling system in North America. The project, which was completed in May 2016, takes advantage of an existing rock quarry to provide water for the airport’s cooling and irrigation needs. Located east of one of the airport’s runways, the former 43-acre Hoover rock quarry contains approximately 1.5 billion gallons of water and an average depth of 150 feet. 

At a depth of 50 feet, the water stays 50°F year-round. The project takes advantage of that cool temperature by circulating water through geothermal heat exchangers submerged in the quarry to the airport terminal's central plant, providing cooling for the entire terminal. In addition to the geothermal system, the project will also allow for the use of the quarry water for landscape irrigation. 

Nashville International Airport is pioneering the use of a geothermal lake plate cooling system in the aviation industry and has reduced the airport’s chilled water energy consumption by 50 percent. Prior to this project, the airport’s chilled water energy consumption was 1.056 kilowatts annually on average. With the help of the new system, this has been cut in half to 0.525 kilowatts annually on average. 

Each year, the project reduces electricity usage by more than 6,000 kW of peak demand and results in savings of 1.3 million kWh. It also saves 30 million gallons of potable water annually, primarily through decommissioning the old cooling tower system and also by using quarry water for terminal landscape irrigation. The energy utility savings are expected to well exceed $430,000 a year for the next 50 years.

For more information on the Jay Hollingsworth Speas Airport Award, please visit For more information on the AIAA Honors and Awards Program, please contact Patricia Carr at 703.264.7523 or

About AIAA
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the world’s largest aerospace technical societyWith nearly 30,000 individual members from 85 countries, and 95 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, visit, or follow us on Twitter @AIAA.


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