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Entering or exiting Cochin International airport in India’s southern Kochi city, it is hard to miss the sea of solar panels glinting under the sun on a vast stretch of land on one side of the road and on top of a massive car park. Close by, a huge billboard proclaims the airport’s status as the world’s first airport fully powered by solar energy.
The journey to that title began with a pilot project five years ago as airport authorities searched for ways to minimize ever-growing power bills.
“We put solar panels on the rooftop of Terminal One, we observed it for a year and we found it is quite good and can be safely scaled up,” said the airport’s managing director, V.J.Kurian.
Now, the energy being produced by the sun-drenched airport’s solar plant meets its needs round the clock. The excess power harnessed by tens of thousands of solar panels during the day is stored in the city’s energy grid.
“We will produce the entire energy during these morning 10 hours and directly we will use some part of energy,” explained project manager Jerrin John Parakkal. “Excess energy we will bank to grid and then during nighttime we will take it back.”
In 2018 Cochin airport won one of the United Nations top environmental awards: Champions of the Earth Award for Entrepreneurial Vision. The project is a testament to India’s ambitions of rapidly scaling up the use of solar power to reduce its carbon emissions and has prompted other airports and infrastructure projects to explore the potential of solar energy.
Kurian, who led the project, recalls that initially there were doubts about the project’s financial viability — the cost of producing one megawatt of power was pegged at $1 million. But the falling price of solar panels in recent years brought down costs and helped make the ambitious project a reality.
“We get back our investment in less than six years time, which I thought was an excellent investment opportunity and next 25 years is meant for all profit,” Kurian said.
To retain the title it received in 2015 as the world’s first fully solar powered airport, the facility has steadily expanded capacity. The more than 29 megawatts currently produced will soon be scaled up to nearly 40 megawatts to meet the needs of ever-growing passenger traffic in a city that is Kerala’s commercial capital and a gateway to tourist destinations.
The solar panels had been placed on a large tract of unused land set aside for future cargo, but because usable land is the biggest challenge for solar projects, airport authorities have searched for alternatives. They found available space on top of the airport’s car park and a 2-kilometer canal.
Airport authorities estimate that the elimination of carbon emissions over 25 years would be equal to planting 3 million trees. And to make the green project even greener, organic vegetables are being grown under the solar panels and on spare land on the side. About 60 tons were produced last year and were sold to airport staff.
Interest in solar grows
The project has prompted interest from other airports in India and in some African countries, which are also eyeing the potential of solar power.
“We have signed an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the government of Ghana. We have had a team from Liberia who were interested in us helping them to put up solar panels specially in the airport sector,” Kurian said.
The Cochin airport is being seen as a model of how from household rooftops to big infrastructure projects, sunny India is increasingly turning to solar power.
“They have a demonstration effect also. So many people walk through the airport. If they get to know that solar energy is being utilized on such a scale, that means it is a viable solution,” said Amit Kumar, a solar energy expert with the Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi.
India’s massive rail sector is also turning to solar energy. Solar panels are being placed on top of some train coaches. A rail station in the northeastern city of Guwahati has begun generating enough solar power to meet its needs. The government is also exploring how highways could be lighted with solar lights.
India’s target of increasing its solar capacity to 100,000 megawatts by 2022 has attracted big investments in the sector. Japan’s SoftBank has promised to invest $20 billion in Indian solar projects, and some of the world’s largest solar parks are being built in the country. That has raised hopes that India will be able to meet its commitment of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions about 35 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
However experts warn that the imposition of import duties last year on solar panels from China and Malaysia amid a push to increase indigenous manufacturing has affected the momentum of growth.
“It is moving fast, but in recent times there have been some hiccups (disruptions). I would say it is moving towards its target, at the moment a bit slowly,” Kumar said. (VOA)
The US researchers have discovered a class of immune cells that plays a role in miscarriage, which affects about a quarter of pregnancies.
Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that the recently discovered subset of cells known as extrathymic Aire-expressing cells in the immune system may prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the placenta and fetus.
The researchers showed that pregnant mice who did not have this subset of cells were twice as likely to miscarry, and in many of these pregnancies fetal growth was severely restricted.
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"When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades -- not since the mother made a placenta when she herself was a fetus," said Eva Gillis-Buck, from UCSF.
"Our research suggests that this subset of immune cells is carrying out a sort of 'secondary education' -- sometimes many years after the better-known population of the educator cells have carried out the primary education in the thymus -- teaching T cells not to attack the fetus, the placenta and other tissues involved in pregnancy," she added. The findings are published in the journal Science Immunology.
The immune system has to be educated not to attack one's own tissues and organs to prevent autoimmune disease. But pregnancy presents a unique challenge since the fetus expresses proteins found in the placenta as well as proteins whose genetics are distinct from the mother.
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"It was a conceptual leap to link Aire-expressing cells, which are critical for preventing autoimmune disease, to pregnancy," said Tippi Mackenzie, Professor of Surgery at UCSF's Center for Maternal Foetal Precision Medicine.
In the thymus, Aire-expressing cells begin interacting with other immune cells very early in life to teach them what not to attack. The thymus begins to shrink and is nearly gone by adulthood, by which time most immune cells have been educated. But as the thymus shrinks, the population of eTACs in lymph nodes and the spleen expands, the researchers explained.
The study suggests a healthy pregnancy may depend on having these cells around, they added. (IANS/KB)
The tiny emojis being shared on billions of devices worldwide can play a major role in digital communication, with most people saying that emoji compels them to feel more empathy towards others, according to an Adobe report.
Adobe's global emoji study found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
"We were surprised and delighted by the discoveries made in the survey, most notably how enthusiastic respondents were for emoji as a means to express themselves," the company said in a statement.
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Emojis sometimes get criticized for being overly saccharine, but this sweetness is key when it comes to diffusing some of the heaviness of online communication.
"Many of the emoji are focused on positive emotions, so it's easy to insert them into our conversations and lighten the mood," the Adobe study said.
It's not surprising that over half of those surveyed feel more comfortable using emojis than talking on the phone or in person.
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This applies to less intense situations too. Dating, for example, can be tricky — especially when it's online or via digital apps, as it often is now.
The study also found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
In celebration of World Emoji Day on Saturday, Adobe's '2021 Global Emoji Trend Report' surveyed 7,000 people in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. (IANS/KB)
Following the grand Richard Branson show where he carried Andhra Pradesh-born Sirisha Bandla and fellow space travelers on his shoulders after successfully flying to the edge of space, it is time for Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos to applaud Sanjal Gavande, one of the key engineers who designed the New Shephard rocket set to take Bezos and the crew to space on July 20.
Billionaire Bezos is set to fly to the edge of space aboard what is touted as the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight. Born in Kalyan, Maharashtra, Gavande is a systems engineer at Blue Origin who always dreamt of designing aerospace rockets.
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After completing Bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai, she flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University. She also applied for an engineering job at the US space agency NASA but finally landed her dream job at Blue Origin
Sirisha flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University.IANS
Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace 'Wally' Funk, and other passengers are set to liftoff from west Texas and travel just beyond the edge of space on July 20. Blue Origin announced this week that Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old high school graduate from the Netherlands, would join the crew.
Oliver is the son of millionaire Joe Daemen, Founder, and CEO of the Dutch investment company Somerset Capital Partners. Blue Origin, however, did not reveal how much Daemen paid for his son's trip to space. Bezos chose July 20 as the launch date to honor the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
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The launch site for Blue Origin's first human flight will be in a remote location north of Van Horn, Texas, from where the firm had launched New Shepard for previous flights. Blue Origin has received final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space.
On July 12, Bandla touched the edge of space with three others, including Virgin Galactic's billionaire CEO Richard Branson. Bandla vaulted into space onboard VSS Unity 22. After the successful spaceflight, Branson carried the Indian-American on his shoulders while celebrating their flight to space, at Spaceport America in New Mexico. (IANS/KB)