India Reveals World's First Solar-Powered Airport

India Reveals World's First Solar-Powered Airport

Cochin International Airport in the southern city of Kochi became the proud home of the world's first completely solar-powered airport on August 18. Over the next 25 years, the new power system is expected to save 300,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, the equivalent of planting three million trees.

Cochin, India's fourth largest international airport in terms of passenger traffic, begun the transition to renewable energy in 2013 when it installed a smaller solar power array (a solar panel with a collection of solar modules) on the roof of its arrivals terminal. [2][3]

"We initiated a pilot project in February 2013 as part of our plan to shift to renewable energy by setting up a 100 kilo watt unit. When we found that feasible, we set up a 1MW unit in November 2013."

VJ Kurian, Managing Director of Cochin International Airport (CIAL)[2]

After the 1MW project proved to be financially viable, it invited the resurrection of a 12MW project within the airport complex. The 12MW project is comprised of 46,150 solar panels spanning across an impressive 45 acres of land, equivalent to 25 football fields. The project was built by German engineering company Bosch for USD 9.5 million. The airport is co-funded and operated by the Indian government through a public-private partnership.[2][4][5]

"Work on the 12MW project started in February 2015 and was completed in less than six months."

VJ Kurian, Managing Director of CIAL[2]

Long-term contribution

According to a statement from CIAL, the plant will produce 18 million units of power annually, which is equivalent to providing about 10,000 homes with electricity for one year. In addition, over the next 25 years, the solar power project will avoid carbon dioxide emissions from coal fired power plants by more than 3 lakh metric tonnes, which is equivalent to planting three million trees or driving 750 miles.

Now, Cochin airport's solar power plant is producing between 50,000 and 60,000 units of electricity per day, which is more than enough to cover all of its operations and technically make the airport 'absolutely power neutral'. As a matter of fact, the airport will produce a few MW of extra energy, which is being contributed to the state's power grip.[4]

"We did not want to be identified as just another airport and be confined to it."

VJ Kurian, Managing Director of CIAL[2]

Government encourages others to follow in Cochin's footsteps

The government in India has urged other airports to copy Cochin's power system in order to contribute to the reduction of the country's greenhouse emissions and embracing renewable energy sources. India is currently the third largest polluter in the world after China and the U.S. India has set ambitious goals for the future, aiming to ramp up its solar capacity to 100gigawatts (GW) by 2022. Its current capacity is at a more modest 4GW. In the broader picture, the country has a goal to derive 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2022.[5][6][7][8]

To fund the ambitious goal, the government expects an investment of USD 100 billion in the sector in the next seven years. Some of Asia's biggest billionaires such as Masayoshi Son, Gautam Adani and Anil Ambani have also promised huge investments in the sector.[2]

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata seems to be the first to follow in Cochin's footsteps. On August 18, the airport announced the plans to set up a 15MW solar power plant on 60 acres of land[2].


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