The Cochin International Airport (CIAL) has been honoured with ‘Champion of Earth’ award by the United Nations for being the world’s first airport to completely function on solar energy. The win makes CIAL the first airport in the world to receive the highest environmental award by the UN.
A communiqué signed by Erik Solheim, United Nation’s Global chief of Environment and Executive Director, was sent to CIAL’s managing director, V.J. Kurian. The communiqué stated that “this is the United Nation’s highest environmental accolade and reflects your leadership in the use of sustainable energy.”
“Previous Champion laureates range from world leaders to inspiring scientists-all visionaries who drive the world closer to its aspiration of environmental sustainability and a life of dignity for all. As the world’s first fully solar-powered airport, you set an ambitious example that we hope many others will follow,” the communiqué added, as reported by India Today.
According to a statement by CIAL, the award will be officially presented at a ceremony on the sidelines of the General Assembly in New York on September 26, the Hindu reported.
The report further mentioned that a UN team led by Solheim had previously visited the airport to learn more about its solar initiatives. The UN team also held discussions with authorities including chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. During his visit, Solheim told the media that the UN wishes to officially endorse Kochi airport as the world’s first airport to be completely powered by solar energy.
The Cochi International Airport
CIAL is the company that owns and operates India’s first airport to be developed under public private partnership. On August 18, 2015, a 12 megawatt peak (mwp) solar power plant was commissioned, and it was scaled up to 30 mwp in April 2018.
The airport’s managing director, V.J. Kurian, outlined the future plans for the airport: “By September 2018, the solar capacity at CIAL will be increased to 40 mwp, with a power potential of 60 million units per annum and resulting in a cost saving of approximately Rs 40 crore per annum to the airport. This will also avoid CO2 emissions by more than 9 lakh metric tons over the next 25 years, which is equivalent of planting 90 lakh trees or not driving 2400 million miles,” Kurian said, as reported by the Economic Times.
In 2015, Daily Mail reported that a total of 46,000 solar panels fitted besides the airport’s cargo complex would make it ‘absolutely power neutral.’ Citing a statement from the airport, the report said that a reduction of 300,000 tonnes of carbon emissions is expected over the next 25 years. CNN reported that the ambitious solar power project cost roughly 620 million rupees – an amount that the airport expects to save in less than six years by not having to pay electricity bills anymore.
India’s airports make efforts towards going green
Perhaps taking note of the solar power amenities at the Kochi airport, the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA), Bengaluru, also plans to run completely on solar power by 2020. Power demand currently at the KIA is 11 mw per day, and authorities claim that it could increase to about 20 mw after completion of the second terminal. S. Lakshminarayanan, vice president in the engineering & maintenance department, said that Bangalore International Airport, KIA’s parent company, plans to install a solar power plant having a capacity of 12 mw, as reported by the Times of India.
In June 2018, New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport decided to install nearly 35,000 indoor ‘air purifying’ plants rather than air purifiers. Delhi International Airport Limited said that they plan to add such plants in the thousands every year.
Hindustan Times, in February 2018, reported that the Airport Authority of India (AAI) is planning to implement its first 300 kilowatts peak (kWp) solar power plant at the Lohegaon airport in Pune. “The Pune airport will have a solar power plant by March 31. The tender process for the work has been completed. The total cost of project is Rs.1.27 crore,” AAI Pune Airport said in a tweet.
Media reports have stated that nearly 40 percent of all power capacity in India comes via solar power. The Indian government seems to be fast-tracking solar power products in the country, and has advocated solar powered lights and cars. India might have made a good start in launching solar power, but several steps still need to be taken. Funding solar powered projects remains an area of concern.