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How is the world's first solar powered airport faring?

BBC

2015-11-05 14:11:40


How is the world's first solar powered airport faring?

Standing out in a field of green are more than 46,000 solar panels tapping the power of the bright sunlight and converting it into energy.

Located in the southern state of Kerala, Cochin is now the first airport in the world to run completely on solar power.

The airport started with a small pilot project by installing a solar energy plant with 400 panels on its rooftop in 2013. When that experiment succeeded, it decided to go all the way.

In August this year, the airport became totally self sufficient in meeting its energy needs after it installed a 12 megawatt solar plant close to the cargo terminal.

The airport's managing director VJ Kurian says it was the huge power bills that prompted them to look at greener solutions.

Challenge

The airport, which is the seventh busiest in India handling more than 1,000 flights a week, consumes nearly 48,000 units costing 336,000 rupees ($5,160; £3,364) every day.

Today, with its solar power plant it produces more energy than it needs and banks the rest with the state power grid for rainy days and night-time requirements.

Mr Kurian says airports across the country have approached him to learn more about the "Cochin model". A team from Liberia is also interested to learn more about harnessing the sun's energy.

The installation of the solar plant cost nearly $9.5m (£6.27m) and took around six months to complete. The company is hopeful of recouping the costs in less than six years. So far it has been a smooth journey for the airport, says Mr Kurian.

The challenge though is just around the corner.

The airport is looking to inaugurate a new international wing in January comprising nearly 1.5m sq ft which will require more energy than what the existing plant is generating.

Additional solar panels will have to be set up if the authorities wants to hang onto the "first fully solar powered airport" tag.

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