FIRST there was the solar plane. Now there is the solar airport.
That’s right, an airport completely powered by the sun. Not partly but completely (well, except on really cloudy days where it will have to use power from the grid).
Where you ask?
Well, it’s not in Australia where we have an abundance of sunshine.
It’s in India — the fourth biggest polluter in the world with the fastest growing economy and the second largest population.
India is also the fourth largest consumer of oil and relies heavily on coal.
Despite its reliance on fossil fuels, the country also uses alternative energy sources such as wind, biofuels and nuclear.
India uses solar, but it only powers less than one per cent of the country’s energy mix, despite having twice as much sunshine as some parts of Europe which have embraced solar technology.
Faced with hefty electricity bills, Cochin International Airport in the southwest state of Kerala began searching for ways to cut costs and turned to the sun.
The airport has the fourth largest numbers in international passenger traffic in India, and, on average, uses around 48,000 units of power a day.
That’s a big bill.
Cochin International Airport which became the world’s first fully solar powered airport in the world in August 2015.Source:Facebook
“When we realised the scale of our power bill, we looked at various possibilities,” VJ Kurian, Cochin International’s managing director told Ecowatch.com.
“We consume around 48,000 units of power a day. So if we can produce the same by strictly adhering to the green and sustainable model of infrastructure development we always follow, we can send a message to the world.
“Now this has become the world’s first airport that fully operates on solar power. In fact, we are producing a few megawatts of extra energy, which is being contributed to the state’s power grid.”
More than 46,000 solar panels were installed on 45 acres of airport land to create a 12 megawatt plant. It is expected to generate between 50,000 to 60,000 units of electricity per day.
Anything left over gets fed back into the grid.
And it has been estimated that over the next 25 years Cochin International’s solar power station is expected to save 300,000 tonnes worth of carbon emissions. That’s the equivalent of planting three million trees or not driving 1,207,008,000 billion kilometres.
The economic and environmental benefits has led the Indian government to invest $100 billion in solar energy and plans are already in place for the Netaji Subash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata, West Bengal to follow suit.
Airport officials there have already began the process to build a 15 megawatt solar plant on 60 acres of land.
And while Cochin may be the first completely solar powered airport, there are a number around the world including in Australia that are partially powered by the sun.
Alice Springs Airport was the first to implement a large-scale photovoltaic system to provide some of its energy needs.
The $2.3 million project now powers more than half of the airport.
And Karratha Airport in Western Australia’s Pilbara region will soon source a third of its energy needs from a solar farm near the airport which is to be built within the next few months.