Tuesday February 25, 2020
Home India World’s...

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.

0
//
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.

Also Read: To light up sites at night, ASI is likely to install Solar Panels on all Historical Monuments

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

U.S. President Donald Trump Announces Military Deal With India

Trump Announces Military Deal With India, Expresses Optimism For Trade Pact

0
Donald Trump, Narendra Modi
President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shake hands during a "Namaste Trump," event at Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium. VOA

By Steve Heman

President Donald Trump said Monday the United States will sign an agreement to sell $3 billion worth of U.S. helicopters and other equipment to India’s military.

The announcement came as Trump spoke at a welcome rally in the city of Ahmedabad, where a crowd of more than 100,000 people had gathered to hear from him and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Ahead of the visit, Trump had said a new major trade deal between the two countries would not be part of this trip.  But in his address he promised the two countries will be making “among the biggest ever trade deals,” and said he is optimistic that he and Modi can reach “a good, even great deal” for both sides.

Modi also struck an optimistic note about a potential trade agreement, saying ties were expanding in spheres ranging from defense, the energy sector and information technology, and that a resurgent India would present new opportunities for the U.S.

Donald Trump, Narendra Modi
President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, pause as they tour the Taj Mahal. VOA

Calling the two countries “natural partners,” Modi said they can help bring peace, progress and security not just in the Indo Pacific region, but in the entire world.

“We are inspired by a long-term vision, not just short term considerations,” Modi said.

Modi hailed President Trump’s visit saying it marks a new chapter between the two countries. “India-U.S. relations are no longer just another partnership. It is a far greater and closer relationship,” the Indian leader said.

“There is so much that we share, shared values and ideas, shared spirit of enterprise and innovation, shared opportunities and challenges, shared hopes and aspirations,” according to Modi.

Trump began his address by uttering the Indian greeting “Namaste,” and said that India “will always hold a special place in our hearts.”

“America loves India.  America respects India.  And America will always be faithful and loyal friends to the Indian people,” Trump said.

He celebrated India as a successful democracy, and said both countries are committed to working together to fight terrorism.

“Our borders will always be closed to terrorists and terrorism and all forms of extremism,” Trump said.

Trump’s visit began with a red carpet-welcome at the airport in Ahmedabad, in Modi’s home state of Gujarat.  Thousands of people then cheered along a motorcade route as Trump and Modi traveled a short distance to a stop at Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram.

Pre-trip beautification effort

Donald Trump, Narendra Modi
U.S. President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrive at the new Motera cricket stadium. VOA

A small army of workers was deployed ahead of Trump’s visit to Ahmedabad to build a 400-meter-long wall along the motorcade route to block the view of where poor people live. The hurried beautification project also includes the placement of about 150,000 flowerpots.

After the stadium event in Ahmedabad and before heading to New Delhi, the president and first lady Melania Trump made a visit to the country’s most famous tourist attraction – the Taj Mahal – where they were given a tour of the site.

Indian media reported Agra will be on lockdown for the visit, although there is concern about controlling the menacing monkeys roaming the grounds of the 17th-century Mughal marble mausoleum.

“The forest department has been requested to ensure that the monkeys stay away from the Taj during Donald Trump’s visit,” Archaeological Survey of India Superintending Archaeologist Vasant Kumar Swarnkar was quoted telling India Today.

While Trump expressed his optimism for a trade deal, he said last week he was “saving the big deal for later on.”

There is mutual agreement on dozens of elements for the pact, but several contentious sectors are unresolved, including medical devices, according to sources close to the talks.

“Whether or not there will be an announcement on a trade package is, really, wholly dependent upon what the Indians are prepared to do,” a senior administration official told reporters on Friday. “That said, we have a number of significant commercial deals, which are of great significance that we’re very pleased to announce in a number of key sectors.”

Indian officials are said to be perplexed that U.S. officials halted trade negotiations just prior to the Trump visit, expressing a view that Washington pursued brinkmanship that failed in the face of a more patient India, which is the world’s fifth biggest economy.

“There’s no great hurry here” to finalize a trade pact, retired veteran senior Indian diplomat T.P. Sreenivasan in India told VOA.

“I was personally a little bit surprised that the two sides weren’t able to get this deal done,” Jeff Smith, South Asia research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said.

Donald Trump, Narendra Modi
U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wave as they depart after a “Namaste Trump,” event. VOA

Bilateral talks

In India’s capital, bilateral talks are to focus on contemporary concerns.

Indian officials could raise Trump’s hard line on immigration.

“They view the immigration issue — whether it is offering visas to students or the H-1B highly skilled visas or the green card issue — as becoming worse in the last four years,” Pande told VOA.

It is uncertain whether Trump will discuss the issue of Kashmir.

Six months after Modi ended Kashmir’s special status under India’s constitution, local politicians there remain detained and internet service is restricted.

Trump “is not always very thoughtful when he talks about such issues, particularly Kashmir. So that’s a bee in his bonnet and it’s going to come up in some form,” Sreenivasan, a former Indian ambassador to the United Nations, predicted.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for Trump to help resolve the dispute between the two nuclear-armed neighbors over Kashmir, something the U.S. president has previously indicated he is willing to do. But Modi has strongly rebuffed offers from third parties to mediate.

Indian officials are apprehensive about Trump commenting on the Kashmir issue during the visit.

“He might say that ‘I’m a great deal-maker and I can resolve Kashmir.’ But let’s hope he doesn’t,” Pande, of the Hudson Institute, said.

Some members of the U.S. Congress are also expressing concern about Modi’s controversial move to give Indian citizenship to immigrants from three neighboring countries — unless they are Muslims.

Trump, during the India visit, will raise such matters, particularly the religious freedom issue, which is extremely important to this administration,” according to a senior administration official.

“Attempts to lecture, coerce, punish, intervene in India’s affairs have traditionally not been particularly effective,” Smith, of the Heritage Foundation, said.

Trump will be the fourth consecutive U.S. president to travel to India, continuing the shift in allegiance by Washington to Delhi from India’s arch-rival and neighbor.

Khan, after a recent meeting with Trump during the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, said the U.S. president also promised to visit Pakistan soon.

Also Read- Realme Unveils First 5G Smartphone in India Named “X50 Pro 5G”

If “there is no complementary visit to Pakistan or no side agreement on some other way to assuage concerns there, then I think Pakistan will take it as a slight,” said Richard Russow, senior adviser for U.S.-India policy studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (VOA)