Kochi Airport: First In The World That Runs Completely On Solar Energy

If you look below a hovering airplane over Cochin International Airport, you’ll be struck by the glittering cluster of reflective panels near the runway. Crossing a major milestone, the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) in Kerala has stopped paying its electricity bill altogether. In fact it has actually started contributing energy back to the grid thanks to the thousands of solar panels spread across its site.

CIAL became world’s first airport to operate completely on solar power. The power is drawn from a 12 MWp solar power plant which comprises 46,150 solar panels laid across 45 acres located near the cargo complex. The solar power plant will be supplying 50000 to 60000 units of electricity per day. The airport would use this electricity for all its operational functions, technically making the airport ‘absolutely power neutral’.

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It was during March of 2013 that Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) had first ventured into the Solar PV sector. CIAL had installed a 100 kWp solar power plant on the roof top of its Arrival Terminal Block. Due to the successful commissioning of this plant, CIAL progressively installed a 1 MWp solar power plant partially on the roof top and the ground in the Aircraft Maintenance Hangar facility. This plant was the first Megawatt scale installation in the state. These plants have saved more than 550MT of CO2 emission so far.

The success of these early efforts led to a much larger endeavor. Last year CIAL got serious about renewable energy, and commissioned German firm Bosch to turn an unused wasteland next to one of the terminals into a solar power plant. The investment is finally starting to pay off. CIAL consumes 48,000 to 50,000 kilowatts of power per day, and the solar power plant will now take that strain and then some. Plans have been made to extend the solar farm out even further to supply power to the larger international terminal which is currently under construction.

Other major industry players are taking note – the unused lands at almost all airports make them specifically suitable for such projects. Other airports in the country too are planning on taking the same approach. South African and Liberian rrepresentatives have also visited Cochin to check out the airport in person.

This innovative initiative at Cochin was bolstered due to the growing economic viability of solar power. The price of solar power is similar to coal generated power, which makes it a bona fide alternative on both large and small scales. As per few experts, by 2020 solar energy would aactually become cheaper than coal generated energy in India. The Government of India too is keen on bringing more solar power into the grid as solar energy provides round-the-clock stable electricity.

As for CIAL, it’ll soon be paying back some of the 62 crores it put up to install the solar panel, by selling the excess energy it will be generating; and that’s before you arrive at the estimated 3,00,000 metric tonnes of carbon emissions they’ll save compared to coal power over the next 25 years.