Sky-high renewable dreams for world’s first solar powered airport

Trailblazing ahead of the rest of the world, India is now home to the world’s first entirely solar energy-powered airport.

Located in the south of India, the Cochin International Airport has made such waves that its Managing Director is becoming accustomed to other airports across the country approaching him and asking for insight on the “Cochin model”.

The airport is currently generating more energy than it uses, banking excess power with the state power grid for night-time and poor-weather day use.

And that’s no small feat for an airport that handles over 1,000 international flights every week.

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Cochin International Airport

So how much energy does an airport use?

What’s particularly amazing about this story is the fact that this is not just any business. As businesses go, an airport is a high-intensive, energy-consumption machine.

According to the European Commission, a particularly large airport can use as much electricity in one day as a city of 100,000 people.

How did they do it?

In a bid to become more self-sufficient, the airport’s renewable generation project started off small (well, small for the largest and busiest airport in the state of Kerala). The first step saw just 400 solar panels placed on the roof of a solar energy plant, a pilot project that proved successful and paved the way for a much larger-scale endeavour.

Fast forward a couple of years and the Cochin International Airport’s solar panel count is now at 46,000.

Given that solar panels can be anywhere up to 28 metres squared, this could mean that over 1,000km2 of the land surrounding the airport is populated with solar power panels.

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Cochin International Airport

Leading the way

It’s not just in Kerala that solar power projects are making leaps and bounds for renewable energy. The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has spoken out about his vision for increasing the country’s solar power capacity, hoping to hit 100,000 megawatts by 2022.

But it’s not as straightforward as simply buying and installing more solar panels.

Wherever you have capacity to generate energy, you must have a stable grid to distribute the energy, or a reliable storage method to contain the energy until it is needed.

Ashish Khanna, Chief of Indian solar manufacturer Tata Power Solar, pointed out that “[India doesn’t] have the grid stability which can take the kind of power we are talking about. Also the quality of power is important… The challenge right now is that there are no standards in place.”

But while the rest of India may need to dot some I’s and cross the T’s before following in Cochin’s footsteps, there’s much to be taken from their glowing example. See a summary of their accomplishment below and prepare to be wowed.

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Cochin International Airport

The big numbers:

1,000+ flights every week from Cochin International Airport. This makes it the…

#1 busiest airport in Kerala (which, in terms of population, is bigger than the whole of Spain)

#7 busiest airport in the whole of India

336,000 rupees: how much the airport spends on energy per day (£3,364)

£6.27m spend to install the entire solar plant

50-60,000: how many units of electricity the solar power generates per day to make the airport power neutral

300,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions reduced over the next 25 years as a result – the equivalent of:

  • Planting 3 million trees
  • Not driving 750 million miles

To find out more about Cochin International Airport’s solar power win, check out their website by clicking here.


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