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What’s Next for India’s Solar Power Ambitions?

India now claims the title of having the world’s first airport that runs entirely on solar power.

The Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL), located in the southwestern state of Kerala, has been undergoing the transition in the last few years from what started as a limited number of solar panels on terminal rooftops to acres of panels and an onsite solar power plant.

The plant produces up to 60,000 KWh per day, which is just over what the airport consumes on an average day. To generate this, 46,150 solar panels are in use, covering a land area of 45 acres.

Vj Kurian, managing director of CIAL, spoke with Quartz about the airport: “We initiated a pilot project in February 2013 as part of our plan to shift to renewable energy by setting up a 100 kilowatt unit. When we found that feasible, we set up a 1 megawatt (MW) unit in November 2013.”

As of August 18th, the plant (now upgraded 12MW) was officially completed and fully operational. Any excess power generated will be used in the state grid. The airport anticipates being able to offset the costs of the project within the next five years.

Kolkata’s airport, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International, is following this example by announcing that they will be constructing a 15MW solar plant.

Projects like these, along with much larger solar plants, have government support and financial backing, with the overall goal to reduce reliance on coal and increase the country’s solar power capacity.

Currently, what is labeled as the world’s largest solar power plant is being constructed, mostly on government owned land. India’s national hydroelectric company is looking to plan floating solar farms as well—a double bonus if they are built on lakes or reservoirs and can therefore help reduce evaporation on extremely hot days. A pilot project for these floating solar farms will be set up on a lake, also in the Kerala state.

India hopes to reach an output of 100 gigawatts with solar alone by 2022, the same year that the nation’s swelling population is expected to catch up with and possibly surpass that of China, according to a revised report by the United Nations.

India’s carbon dioxide emissions are third largest in the world, after China and the United States. With a steadily increasing population, it’s imperative to aggressively push ahead with such ambitious solar power projects. And if more of these projects are feasible, more investment in this sector will no doubt be heading India’s way.

H/T: Quartz

  • Minwoo Kim

    Floating solar power system is a wonderful idea.