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Know about world’s first solar airport, which is in India

World's first solar airport is in India

Cochin International Airport, in southern Kerala, is the first in the world to run entirely on solar energy, thanks to a system of tens of thousands of solar panels that power the facility and give it total energy autonomy.

Cochin International became the world’s first solar-powered airport in 2015 when it transformed land previously reserved for cargo handling into a 12-megawatt solar plant. This new energy source provides all the energy with the airport needs, and even generates surpluses for the state grid, according to the BBC.

World’s first solar-powered airport

Walking in the sun between the many perfectly aligned panels of the concourse that ends at the outer fence of Cochin airport is like walking through a vineyard of dark metal sheets from which the heads of the workers are poking out.

There are 48,154 photovoltaic panels in a 20-hectare area of ​​land that was not used until last February when the German company Bosch launched an installation that today generates 12 megawatts of energy per day, more than enough for the southern state of Kerala.

Cochin International has gained much press and distinction for its significant investment in renewable energy. Most recently, the UN awarded the travel hub its highest environmental honour: a Champion of the Earth award, specifically in business acumen. But the solar shift wasn’t just good for the planet, it was also good for business.

“When we realized that our energy bill was higher, we looked at the possibilities,” VJ Kurian, managing director of Cochin International Airport Limited, told Forbes India. “Then the idea of harnessing green power came up.

“There was a space available, which was previously intended for the future expansion of the cargo terminal, but which we believed could be used to build a solar panel plant,” explained the general manager of Cochin airport, José Thomas.

Image: FACEBOOK/COCHIN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT LIMITED

The plant expects to generate 18 million units of solar energy per year, the equivalent of supplying electricity to 10,000 homes at the same time.

Project cost

According to CNN, the project cost approximately 620 crore rupees, or about $9.3 million. But the airport hopes to get its money back within the next four years, since it is no longer paying for electricity. The emissions savings are equally huge. The solar plant is expected to remove 300,000 metric tons of carbon, a sum that is equivalent to planting three million trees.

Now Cochin International Airport is helping other travel hubs do the same. Forbes India reports that it has signed an agreement to provide technical assistance to three airports in Ghana that plan to build their own solar plants. Liberian engineers have also sought out their expertise, while several airports in India are following Cochin International’s lead.

Late last year, the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport unveiled an even larger 15-megawatt solar farm designed to reduce its carbon emissions and energy bills. The project is expected to save the transit hub of Kolkata, which is the fifth busiest airport in India, around 12 million rupees per month.

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As the UN points out, India is an ideal location for a solar boom, as the country enjoys around 300 days of sunshine a year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already used this opportunity to address the lack of power in rural areas. Thanks to the combined extension of the national grid and the installation of solar panels, all inhabited Indian villages gained access to electricity this April.

India’s fourth-largest airport

The idea of ​​India’s fourth largest airport in international traffic becoming self-sufficient began to take shape in March 2013 with several projects being developed in parallel with the increase in aircraft traffic.

“Our forecasts were good with the first two solar plants and we thought: why not make an airport capable of generating its own electricity supply?” explains the founding director of the airport facility, VJ Kurian.

The project for this large solar plant, with a cost of close to 10 million dollars, was presented through a tender in which 18 international companies competed for the contract, which was finally won by the German Bosch.

An investment that, however, will be more than profitable, according to the director of the Cochin airport. With what we save from installing the panels, it is estimated that in about five years “we will have paid for the cost of construction with what we stopped spending,” Thomas said.

Through its subsidiary in India, Bosch built the facility in four months, making Cochin International Airport the world’s first “green airport”. Taking the first step, the airport is already thinking of going further and in addition to generating its own electricity, it also intends to recycle water.

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