“Solar energy is the future,” according to V.J. Kurian, Managing Director of Cochin International Airport. “We feel this will be a much, much better source of power than the coal-based or the gas-based power plants.”
Kurian pioneered the solar project while Cochin is the biggest and busiest airport in Kerala state in India, and the fourth busiest airport in India in terms of international traffic. The project began in 2013 in response to the rising cost of electricity, and in 2015 Cochin became the first airport in the world to be completely powered by solar energy.
“We started with a 100-kilowatt pilot project. We found we could produce about 400 kilowatts of power,” Kurian tells us. “Then we thought why don’t we scale it up? Why don’t we make the whole airport completely solar powered?”
Today Cochin’s capacity is 29.5 megawatts of solar energy, providing them with 120,000 units of power every day. Every part of the day-to-day running of the airport is powered by renewable energy; from powering the conveyor belts to the digital systems. The sunny climate has generated a surplus of energy which Cochin airport can utilise for when sunshine is not present.
The airport boasts the inauguration of a dedicated solar plant – solar panels have been placed on terminal roofs, hangars, over a two-kilometre long canal and a car parking area. Currently, solar plants are in eight locations, including the biggest plant which is spread over an area of 45 acres.
The grounds also house a farm underneath the panels. Last year they produced approximately 60 tonnes of organic vegetables, which are sold to nearby markets and airport staff.
Kurian says of the Champions of the Earth Award: ‘It’s a great honour to Cochin International Airport, and the whole country, that we have been bestowed with this award.”
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