Cochin airport becomes the world’s first to operate on solar power

The project is expected to help the airport avoid more than 300,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions over the next 25 years

By M Suchitra
Published: Friday 21 August 2015
Photo courtesy: CIAL

In a giant leap towards using renewable energy to reduce CO2 emissions, Kerala's Cochin International Airport (CIAL) has become the first airport in the world to operate entirely on solar power.

Inaugurated on August 18 by state Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, the airport has set up a 12 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant to provide for its energy needs. It is also the single largest solar project to be constructed in any airport in India.

"This is a part of our efforts to go green ad reduce environmental degradation," V J Kurien, managing director of the airport, told Down To Earth. "With this project, we have become self-reliant and we can meet our power requirement on our own for all our operations."

CIAL needs 48,000 units of power daily. The Rs 65-crore plant, with 46,150 solar panels laid across 18 hectares, is expected to produce about 50,000 units of power.

A press release issued by airport authorities says the annual power production of the plant will be 18 million units, and over the next 25 years, this project will help the airport avoid more than 300,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, which is equivalent to planting 3 million trees.

CIAL ventured into the solar power sector in March 2013 by installing a 100 kW PV plant on the rooftop of the arrival terminal block of the airport. After the successful commissioning of this plant, CIAL installed a 1 MW solar PV plant partly on the rooftop and partly on the ground in the aircraft maintenance hangar facility on the airport premises.

CIAL authorities say these plants have so far saved more than 550 tonnes of CO2 emissions and their success inspired them to go in for a big plant.

The plant was built by Bosch Energy and Building Solutions (BEBS). The project components include PV modules of 265 Wp capacity and Inverters of 1 MW capacity. This is a grid-connected system and has no battery storage.

It has a power banking module with the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) by which CIAL will give the power it produces in a day to the grid of KSEB and "buy" back the power from them when needed. "In this business model, we will start getting the money we spent within five years," says Kurien. 


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