Author – Judah Samuel
In a country that has about 300 clear sunny days, solar energy is a resource that can offer great benefits. Solar energy is the best solution today since eco-friendly methods of energy production has become the need of the hour. The conventional method of electricity production contributes to massive recurring expenditure for power and large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions and other harmful substances.
Interestingly, a solar-powered airport is an ideal solution, since their power consumption is huge. They are the best and the most convenient place for installing solar power, because airports have vast empty lands as buffer zones for clear visibility for aircraft; further their hangars are extremely large buildings with huge terraces that can be utilized for placing solar panels.
Many solar-powered airports across the world have already begun to use solar energy to produce power for their needs. Some of these include the Denver International Airport, Indianapolis International Airport in the US and the Changi International Airport at Singapore. Here as well, some solar powered airports in India have followed suit and have adopted solar power in a big way to augment their energy needs:
Cochin International Airport
Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) is the first airport in the world to become completely solar powered. With 52,000 units of power a day, the airport in Kochi is now producing excess energy to be given back to the state electricity board as well. It began in March 2013, when CIAL airport authorities sought out to cut their expenditures on power and thus started investing in green energy. CIAL first installed a 100kW solar power plant on the rooftop of its arrival terminal block.
After the success of the first power plant, CIAL installed a much larger 1MW solar power plant. In August 2015, a 12MW solar PV plant was set over an area of about 45 acres. This enabled CIAL to produce 50,000-60,000 units of electricity per day. The whole project cost INR60 crore, offering a decent return of investment over the next 5 years. This investment has also helped CIAL to cut down its carbon emissions by 300,000mt over the next 25 years.
Indira Gandhi International Airport
Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi is the second solar-powered airport in the country to make use of solar energy. It has already become the second highest producer of solar energy in the country. In the first phase, the airport installed a 2.14MW plant in its premises that enabled it to produce about 3 million units of electricity. This made it the first airport to be registered under the UNFCCC’s Clean Development Mechanism. In the second phase, the airport almost tripled the amount of solar power produced to up to 7.84MW.
The solar photo voltaic panels installed on the topside of the Indira Gandhi International Terminal are non-reflective PV solar panels, which reduce the glare effect. Computer aided solar glare analysis for 365 days with complete sun movement from sunrise to sunset have been carried out to ensure that there is no impact on flight movement. This plant has helped the IGI Airport save around INR12 crore annually. The project, which is spread over 18 acres, has seen an investment of INR47 crore. DIAL aims to increase the capacity of the solar power plant to up to 20MW by 2020.
Hyderabad International Airport
Following Cochin and Delhi, Hyderabad is the third airport in the country to make use of solar energy. GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd (GHIAL) has commissioned a 5MW solar power plant and plans to increase it to a 30MW plant by 2022. The 5MW plant is able to generate 25,000 units of electricity per day. The next phase of expansion will see the plant generate up to 12MW of solar power and eventually 30MW.
The 5MW plant, costing INR25 crore, will help reduce 30% of the airport’s grid power requirement. The power plant has 16,000 modules of solar PV panels that are based on poly crystalline technology, which is considered to be the most efficient, and are fitted at an angle to ensure maximum exposure to sunlight. This power plant will help avoid usage of 12 tons of coal and 76,800 litres of water every day, while cutting about 71,000mt of carbon emissions.
Kisangarh Airport is the new terminal that is being constructed at Kisangarh, 27 km north east of Ajmer in Rajasthan. Being built by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), the airport is expected to have a 100MW solar power plant. This plant will make the Kisangarh airport the largest producer of solar energy in the country. A technical team of the AAI has earmarked an area to install the solar panels. The electricity produced is expected to be sufficient to run the airport initially, while a modernized water harvesting system is being installed to tackle the issue of water scarcity in the region.
Chandigarh Airport is one of the most eco-friendly facilities in the country. Apart from having a rainwater harvesting and sewage water treatment plant, the airport also boasts of a 200kW solar power plant on the rooftop. This solar power plant satiates all the power needs of the building. The airport in Chandigarh has also been designed in such a way that it doesn’t need any artificial lighting during the day and only relies on natural lighting. Further, around 40% LED lighting LED lighting is used in the airport, thus, helping to reduce the power consumption.
Others Solar Powered Airports in India
Kolkata’s Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Airport is also aspiring to be a green facility in the country. Currently, it has a 2MW solar power plant in its premises and has plans to increase its capacity to 15MW. This solar power plant helps the airport to save INR2.15 crore per year and the 15MW plant is expected to cut down its power expenses by INR18 crore every year. The 2MW power plant itself has cost the airport INR12 crore.
Sri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport at Amritsar has plans of generating its own power by tapping into solar energy. The AAI is in the process of installing a 400kW solar power plant in the airport’s premises, which will make it the first government run facility to have its own power generation facility. It is expected to produce 72,000 units of electricity per month. This will help the airport to save INR54.5 lakh every year, which would mean that the INR2.3 crore to be spent on installing the solar power plant would be realized within 5 years.
Other airports including Chennai, Madurai, Bhubaneswar, Lucknow, Jaipur, Varanasi and a few others will soon have their own solar power plants as well. They are eager to comply with the Indian aviation ministry’s order for all airports to install solar energy plants in their premises. These airports have plans of installing solar power plants capable of producing 100kW to 1.5MW by the end of 2017.
The high cost of solar installation, relative to other power sources, and the glare effect are some of the issues faced by these solar powered airports. However, since the cost of installation can be recovered in a short period of time today, that is not an issue at all. The only major issue that remains is glare. Sunlight reflected off of the solar panels poses a threat to aircraft pilots. But thanks to new technology that reduces the glare effect, these solar panels can also be non-reflective and make it safe for flying.