Inside Cochin: The World’s First Solar Powered International Airport
The largest and busiest airport in the Indian state of Kerala and the third busiest international airport in all of India carried over 6.8 million passengers last year, beaten in sheer numbers only by Delhi and Mumbai.
It serves more than 20 airlines and, between its two terminals, covers an area of more than 54,000 square metres. It’s also powered entirely by solar energy – an impressive world first that’s now a source of pride for India’s air travel industry.
Cochin International Airport is powered by more than 46,000 solar panels, all of which are located on the airport’s open grounds. The airport is the first and only international airport in the world to be completely powered using solar energy.
The airport’s unique and environmentally friendly electricity supply system is the result of experiments with solar power. The airport previously installed 400 solar panels on its rooftop two years ago – when they worked effectively, officials made the decision to power the entire facility using solar power.
Cochin International Airport has been held up as a model of sustainability for other airports around the world. It’s also being viewed as a cost-effective option for many of the world’s airports, which often struggle with significant energy costs.
The airport, which is India’s seventh-busiest airport and third-busiest international airport, previously cost 336,000 rupees (approximately £3,360) per day, consuming an average of 48,000 units of electricity.
With its large solar panel installation, it’s now electrically self sufficient. The panels were installed at a cost of approximately £6.27 million and are expected to pay for themselves through generated electricity in just six years.
In fact, it was the airport’s immense energy costs that prompted it to consider solar power in the first place. Located in the south of India, the airport’s location allows it access to an amount of sunlight that’s beyond that available in temperate areas.
The switch to solar power certainly hasn’t held back activity at the airport. In fact, construction is underway on a new international terminal, which authorities hope to open in January of 2016.
The new terminal will, of course, require a greater supply of power. Officials believe the airport’s expansion will prompt additional investment in solar panels, but other options for powering the expanded facility are also being considered.
Cochin’s unique solar panel system is viewed throughout India as a model for other large public and industrial facilities throughout the country. India’s huge supply of sunlight makes it one of the world’s most viable countries for solar electricity.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi believes that India can generate as much as 100,000 megawatts of electricity using solar panels by 2022 and believes that independent homes and buildings can benefit significantly from installing solar panels.
Despite this, India faces several challenges in achieving its green energy goals. One of the most significant challenges is the nation’s stressed and unstable grid, which many believe can’t tolerate the increased usage of solar photovoltaic panels.
While challenges such as cost and infrastructure make India’s green energy goals a major challenge, it’s one that many in the country are eager to work hard towards, with Cochin International Airport a model of how solar energy can be used.