Cochin International Airport in India paves the way towards a more sustainable future by switching to full utilisation of solar energy in its operations. In fact, we are producing a few megawatt of extra energy which is being distributed to the state’s power grid. Kochi, a beautiful seaside city on the south-west coast of the Indian peninsula is widely known as a tourist spot amongst local and foreign tourists alike. Located in the state of Kerala, this vibrant city is especially known for its wide array of historical attractions ranging from age-old colonial buildings to century-old places of worship. Attracting high numbers of tourists each year, Kochi ranks first in the total number of international and domestic visitors in Kerala.

INDIA PRESENTS WORLD’S FIRST AIRPORT TO FULLY RUN ON SOLAR POWER

INNOVATION

Cochin International Airport in India paves the way towards a more sustainable future by switching to full utilisation of solar energy in its operations.

By Isabelle Pinto

vjV.J. Kurian

MD of CIAL

In fact, we are producing a few megawatt of extra energy which is being distributed to the state’s power grid.

Kochi, a beautiful seaside city on the south-west coast of the Indian peninsula is widely known as a tourist spot amongst local and foreign tourists alike. Located in the state of Kerala, this vibrant city is especially known for its wide array of historical attractions ranging from age-old colonial buildings to century-old places of worship. Attracting high numbers of tourists each year, Kochi ranks first in the total number of international and domestic visitors in Kerala.

To cater to the needs of these tourists, Kochi prides itself for its world class Kochi International Airport. Located about 30km off the city at Nedumbassery, it is one of India’s better airports equipped with advanced facilities. It is also the largest and busiest airport in the state of Kerala, handling 5 million passengers per year and more than 1,100 aircraft movements per week.

However, what sets this mega landing strip apart from others is the fact that unlike most airports, this one comes with a stunning 12MWp solar power plant spread across 45 acres of land, making it the first airport in the world to be run fully on solar power.

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The inspiration to go green using solar energy came about partly due to rising costs of electricity. “When we realized that the power bill is on the high side, we contemplated possibilities. Then the idea of green power came in,” says V.J. Kurian, Managing Director of Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL).

Green Airport

cochin-airportBesides aiming to save costs on electricity bills, CIAL also maintains bright visions of becoming a truly “Green Airport” through sustainable development and practices, therefore, solar power seemed to be a great solution. “We consume 48,000 units (KWh) a day,” says Kurian. “So if we can produce the same amount by strictly adhering to the green and sustainable development model that we always follow, it would transmit a message to the world. Now this has become the world’s first airport that fully operates on solar power,” he added.

Prior to the recent installation of its 12 MWp solar power plant, CIAL first began its venture into the Solar PV sector in March 2013, with the installation of a 100 kWp solar PV Plant on the roof top of the Arrival Terminal Block. Successfully installed by the Kolkata based M/s Vikram Solar Pvt. Ltd., the plant became a trendsetter in the field of grid-connected solar PV in the State of Kerala.

The commissioning of the plant was then followed by the installation of a 1 MWp solar PV power plant partly on the roof top and partly on the ground in the Aircraft Maintenance Hangar facility within the Airport premises. Taken on by Emvee Photovoltaic Power Pvt. Ltd., the plant is the first Megawatt scale installation of Solar PV system in the State of Kerala.

Both plants are equipped with a SCADA system, through which remote monitoring is carried out. The commissioning of both these plants in itself has so far resulted in savings of more than 550MT of carbon dioxide emissions which is indeed a commendable effort towards minimizing environmental degradation.

Encouraged by this success, CIAL decided to soar to greater heights by building a more massive scale 12MWp solar PV plant which consists of a grand total of 46,150 solar panels across 45 acres of land near the International Cargo premises. The contract was awarded to M/s Bosch Ltd, which successfully completed it within 6 short months, at a total cost of RS620 million/USD9.4 million (RS51.5 million per MW/ USD779,789.82 per MW). The project was then proudly inaugurated on 18th August 2015, making it the world’s first airport to completely go solar.

Now, together with its previous 1.10 MWp plants, the airport is able to generate 50,000 to 60, 000 units of electricity per day. This is sufficient to fulfill the power requirements of the entire facility, making it absolutely power neutral. “In fact, we are producing a few megawatt of extra energy which is being contributed to the state’s power grid,” added Kurian.

Being a grid-connected system without any battery storage, CIAL has adopted a power banking module with the Kerala State electricity board (KSEB) whereby CIAL contributes any excess power produced during the day to the grid, and then “buys” back the power when needed, especially during the night. The plant will effectively produce 18 million units of power from the ‘sun’ annually — the power equivalent to feeding 10,000 homes for one year. This would result in costs savings of RS120 million (USD1.82 million) per annum.

Besides advantages in costs savings, the project is also predicted to largely benefit the environment over the next 25 years, avoiding carbon dioxide emissions from coal fired power plants by more than 3 lakh metric tons. This is equivalent to planting 3 million trees or not driving 750 miles.

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