Kolkata: A Rs 88-crore solar power generation plant that is under trial at Kolkata airport is set to propel it ahead of its peers in the country . Once it connects to the CESC grid, it will be the largest source of alternative energy in Kolkata. Speaking to TOI, Kolkata airport director Atul Dikshit said the solar-harvesting facility was undergoing tests before pushing power into the CESC grid. Altogether, 45,454 solar panels, each of 330W capacity, have been installed across 65 acres to the east of the primary runway . The plant has a peak generation capacity of 15MW solar power. It is expected to generate 1.3 million units of electricity a month, enough to light up a locality with 1,000 homes. This is the second solar plant at the airport. A couple of years ago, it had commissioned a 2MW rooftop plant -at a cost of Rs 10.5 crore -that currently powers lights at the airport.
“We have signed a net-metering agreement with CESC and hope to make substantial savings on our electricity bill once the plant is commissioned,“ Dikshit said. Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. Since the airport uses more electricity that it will generate, the difference between the electricity supplied to it by CESC and the electricity the airport exports to the grid will be factored into the bill. According to rough estimates, the airport’s electricty bill should come down from Rs 6 crore to Rs 4.75 crore a month. The annual saving will be Rs 15 crore.
CESC confirmed that the airport was poised to become its biggest supplier of solar power and will be critical for the company to meet its solar obligation. At present, the quantum of solar power in the the CESC grid is currently around 8.5MW. Prior to the installation of the solar panels, a glare analy sis was carried out to ensure that sun’s reflection doesn’t distract or disturb pilots. It is only thereafter that the site location and height of solar photovoltaic modules were decided. “Solar glare was a concern for pilots but technological advancements have led to a substantive reduction in the reflective index of panels,“ a pilot said. Setting up a solar unit in a city is major challenge owing to space crunch. Airports have, therefore, emerged as suitable sites for solar harvesting as it has to mandatorily leave large tracts of land vacant next to runway for operational safety.