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World’s First Fully Solar Powered Airport In India

India’s target of increasing its solar capacity to 100,000 megawatts by 2022 has attracted big investments in the sector.

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Solar panels absorbing sunlight. Pixabay

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.

India, airport
Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi receives the U.N. Champions of the Earth Award from U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres along with UNEP Chief Erik Solheim, right. The award ceremony was at the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra in New Delhi, Oct. 3, 2018. VOA

“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.”

UN award

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.

Solar Panels
Workers install photovoltaic solar panels at the Gujarat solar park under construction in Charanka village in Patan district of the western Indian state of Gujarat, India. VOA

Expanding capacity

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.

Solar Panels, Airport
Panels of a photovoltaic power station are installed on the roof of a building in the new Clichy-Batignolles district in Paris. VOA

“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.

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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)

Next Story

Cow Numbers in India Witnesses a Sharp Increase Since 2012

The female cattle (cows) population is 145.12 million, increasing by 18 per cent over the previous census (2012)

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The 18 per cent jump in the Cow numbers in 2019 is sharply higher than the increase in livestock population at 4.6 per cent and increase in bovine population by one per cent. Pixabay

There has been a sharp jump, by 18 per cent, in the Cow Numbers in the country, as per the latest livestock census report released on Wednesday, over the previous enumeration done in 2012.

he NDA government at the Centre and the BJP governments in various states have introduced many schemes for the protection and welfare of cows.

The 18 per cent jump in the number of cows in 2019 is sharply higher than the increase in livestock population at 4.6 per cent and increase in bovine population by one per cent.

The total livestock population in the country increased by 4.6 per cent over the previous census conducted in 2012, to a total of 535.78 million.

The female cattle (cows) population is 145.12 million, increasing by 18 per cent over the previous census (2012).

The 20th Livestock Census report was released by the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying on Wednesday.

The total bovine population comprising cattle, buffalo, mithuns and yaks is at 302.79 million in 2019 which shows an increase of about 1 per cent over the previous census.

In addition, the total number of cattle in the country in 2019 is 192.49 million showing an increase of 0.8 per cent over the previous census.

The 20th Livestock Census was conducted in participation with all states and Union Territories. The enumeration was done both in rural and urban areas.

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The 20th Livestock Census report on Cow Numbers was released by the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying on Wednesday. Pixabay

Various kinds of animals including cattle, buffaloes, mithuns, yaks, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, ponies, mules, donkeys, camels, dogs, rabbits and elephants, and poultry birds including fowls, ducks, emus, turkeys, quails and other poultry birds possessed by the households, household enterprises and non-household enterprises and institutions have been counted at their site.

The data of more than 27 crore households and non-households have been collected in the 20th Livestock Census to assess and arrive at the livestock and poultry count in the country.

According to the census, there is a decline of 6 per cent in the total indigenous/ non-descript cattle population over the previous census. However, the pace of decline of this cattle population during 2012-2019 is much lesser than as compared to the 2007-12 period, where it was about 9 per cent.

The total buffaloes in the country numbered 109.85 million showing an increase of about 1 per cent over the previous census.

The total milch animals (in-milk and dry) in cows and buffaloes is 125.34 million, an increase of 6 per cent over the previous census.

The total poultry in the country, at 851.81 million in 2019, registered an increase of 16.8 per cent.

The total commercial poultry in the country is 534.74 million in 2019, increasing by 4.5 per cent over the previous census.

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The NDA government at the Centre and the BJP governments in various states have introduced many schemes for Cow Protection and Welfare. Pixabay

The major thrust given to the latest census is the collection of data through tablets computers. This census is a unique attempt as for the first time such a major initiative has been take to digitise household level data through online transmission from the field.

In the whole operations, the state/UT governments engaged more than 80,000 field personnel who are mostly veterinarians and para-veterinarians for the smooth conduct of the exercise.

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The Livestock Census has been conducted in the country periodically since 1919-20 and covers all domesticated animals and their headcounts. So far 19 such censuses have been conducted. (IANS)