Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) in Highfill will begin a $34 million terminal renovation project before saving more than $1 million over 25 years by purchasing electricity generated from a solar array.
In a recent special-called meeting, the XNA Board of Directors approved general contractor Nabholz to complete the terminal renovation without a skybridge that would connect the terminal to the parking garage. The estimated project cost, including the skybridge, was more than $52 million, with the skybridge accounting for about $21 million of that amount.
The approved project is not expected to exceed $34 million and includes new elevators, escalators and stairwells. Other project aspects comprise new baggage handling equipment, Transportation Security Administration and police office renovations, and architectural upgrades at the arrivals hall and baggage claim.
Alex English, public affairs manager for XNA, said construction likely will start in early 2023 and take two years to complete. Architect Hight Jackson Associates of Rogers is working on the final design.
Asked about the decision not to build the skybridge, English said, “the airport is focusing on revenue sources that will diversify opportunities for future growth. The funds that would have been allocated toward the skybridge can be utilized for additional customer-enhancing amenities at XNA.”
She noted that staff is considering several amenities, but they’ve yet to be selected.
“While the skybridge will not be included in this current project, there is the possibility of revisiting the bridge in the future,” English added.
XNA board members agreed to negotiate a 25-year power purchase agreement with Today’s Power Inc. to offset the airport’s electricity costs by purchasing electricity produced by a solar array.
English said the array is expected to have a generating capacity ranging from 3 to 4 megawatts and to start operating by early 2024.
According to XNA documents, the airport pays about $500,000 annually for electricity from Carroll Electric Cooperative. On average, over the past three years, XNA consumed about 6.3 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. XNA consultant J Miller Energy Consulting recommended Today’s Power because its proposal showed the greatest net present value savings, which was estimated at $1.06 million over 25 years.
XNA enplanements, or passengers flying out, rose by 10.3% to 80,991 in October, from 73,369 in the same month last year. Between January and October, enplanements increased by 43.3% to 698,244, from 487,094 in the same period last year.