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Published on August 21st, 2015 | by Anand Upadhyay


1st Airport In World To Go 100% Solar Is In India

August 21st, 2015 by  

Originally published on Solar Love.

Cochin International Airport Limited in Kochi, Kerala (India) has become the first airport in the world to be powered entirely by solar power. A 12 MW solar PV plant, spread over 50 acres, was inaugurated two days back near the airport’s cargo complex.

The power plant took 6 months to complete and has come up at a cost of  ₹620 million ($9.5 million).


Technically speaking, the airport is now grid neutral, as it will give back more than it consumes from the grid. The newly installed solar power plant can generate between 50,000 to 60,000 kWh per day.

The airport has another 1 MW solar PV plant in addition to a smaller grid-connected 100 kW rooftop system, both of which were installed in 2013.

The electricity generated from the system will be fed into the power grid and the airport will use equivalent power from the utility. The plant is expected to produce much more than what the airport would consume, and for this purpose a PPA has been signed with Kerala State Electricity Board to sell any surplus power.

The 12 MW system was executed by Bosch’s Energy and Building Solutions team in India. This is the largest project for the company to date.

About a year back, the Indira Gandhi International Airport at Delhi took the solar plunge with a 2.14 MW plant.

Incidentally, the combined capacity of solar installations at Cochin Airport (12+1.1 MW) is more than the solar PV system installed at the Indianapolis International Airport, which holds the record for world’s largest solar plant at an airport. However, to be fair, Indianapolis has a single 12.5 MW ground-mounted system.

According to the German company Enerparc, which had commissioned the Delhi system, the only special requirement for putting up a solar plant at an airport is the glare analysis for the solar panels. Solar glare is a concern among pilots, but technology advancements have led to a substantive reduction in the reflective index of panels.

Kolkata’s Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, which seems to be the next in line to install a MW-scale solar plant, is said to have sanctioned a 2 MW solar PV unit. Though, if the media reports are to be believed, the airport is eyeing a 15 MW ground-mounted solar power plant over 60 acres of land.

The Airport Authority of India (AAI), which operates 125 airports across the country, including the Cochin and Kolkata airports, has decided to build solar power plants at about 30 of its airports.

AAI has plans to install 50 MW capacity plants in the first phase (by 2016), which would be enhanced to 150 MW over a period of time. The plants would be established on surplus land available at these identified airports or on the large rooftops of the airport structures.

MoU was signed between AAI and Solar Energy Corporation Of India (SECI) for construction of these solar plants.

India has 136 airports, some of which are spread over vast pieces of land. For example, the Hyderabad International Airport is spread over 5,400 acres, while the one at Chennai sits over 4,000 acres. Large-scale solar plants are possible on many of these. The one at Hyderabad, for instance, can house a 25 MW system.

Photo Credit: 12 MW Solar Plant at Cochin International Airport via official website

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About the Author

is an Associate Fellow with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI, New Delhi) - an independent, not-for-profit research institute focused on energy, environment, and sustainable development. Anand follows the Indian solar market at @indiasolarpost. He also writes at SolarMarket.IN. Views and opinion if any, are his own.

  • DisruptiveStrategy

    The cost of a typical solar installation in India including land and short evacuation is less than $1/Watt (~ $ 0.9/Watt). This is including a typical EPC margins. The reverse bidding tariffs have dropped to 8-9 cents / kWh (close to grid parity for new conventional coal based power plants). And this price was quoted by a Canadian-US firm. Land is cheap, so is labour, imported panel prices are competitive and power purchase agreements are available for 25 years (which is attractive for a lot of yield focussed investors. Additionally accelerated depreciation benefits allows investors to earn back their equity commitments in the project within 1-2 years.

    • Bob_Wallace

      What does “short evacuation” mean? Is that a short transmission line?

      • DisruptiveStrategy

        Short evacuation here implies evacuation through 33 kV and injection point at 5-10 km from the site.

    • Jacob

      Cheap labour probably explains some of the cost of the installation at this airport.

      There are solar panel factories in India.

  • Could it be assumed that this figure of 12MW is a reasonable average solar installation at these airports? Unfortunately, I do not know the sizes of the airports in question, so feel free to correct me. However, if 12MW is a good average, once the installation is complete on all 30 airports, that will be ~360MW of capacity! That’s huge, considering it will all take the place of existing generation (mostly coal, I believe).

    • Airports do have a lot of unutilized space, even if some portion of this could be available for installing solar power, I think on an average 12 MW capacity is easily doable.

  • Pawan Sharma

    At this rate i feel. India will reach its target ahead of time. India is a power deficient country. There is a lot of difference between electricity demand and supply. Also there is a lot of difference between the night and day demand. So essentially the solar capacity that is coming online in India is not displacing the existing coal based plants but merely filling in the existing supply gaps. And we have a lot of such gaps to fill. Even after we achieve our target of 100GW By 2020. It will only be drop in the ocean.

    • Sylar

      Dude. All I can say is that drops are really big on your planet.

    • Calamity_Jean

      Well, if India reaches its target ahead of time, you’ll just have to keep going and set a good example for the rest of the world. I’d like to see India shame some of the US’s anti-renewables politicians.

  • arun1

    Why waste the space underneath the panels ? Why not build storage rental space say eight feet high?

    • Jacob

      What do you mean by storage rental.

  • Brent Jatko

    Airports of necessity have a lot of spare land around them that can accommodate solar farms. Solar panels can also be placed over existing airport parking lots.

    • Cburg

      The sun shines really intense in India too.High efficiency; except in the rainy season!

      • Bob_Wallace

        Demand for electricity should drop during the rainy season. AC use will be lower. Less power for agricultural pumping should be needed.

        Of course demand for electricity to drive music systems will be a lot higher. Everyone seems to go outside and dance all the time in the rain.
        At least that’s what I see in Bollywood movies….

        • Sylar

          hahaha.. if we were to go by movies, the world would be busy promoting democracies and fighting aliens

      • Ronald Brakels

        Overcast skies cut PV output by about two-thirds to three-quarters in India. (Going by the example of Queensland which is basically a flatter, upside down India.) But when it actually starts to rain PV output can slightly increase thanks to the rain cooling the panels down and increasing their efficiency.

  • Harry Johnson

    A lot of useful plants thrive in partial shade. If these PV panel rows were mounted on a taller structure, much of this surplus land could do double duty and help local farmers. Rainwater could even be collected with gutters to save for dry weather.

    • Nitin Kini

      I think you’re lacking a practical understanding of what Kerela is and what sort of climate it has. Rainwater harvesting is quite a common practice in Kerela and Cochin being its largest city, no farmers are really looking to grow their crops there.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Many westerners are ignorant about the details of India.

        And many Indians are ignorant about the details of western countries.

        Many people are very willing to learn new stuff.

      • Harry Johnson

        That’s a pity.

        • Nitin Kini

          I know. It looks like your advice will fall on deaf ears.

          • Harry Johnson

            Aren’t you the charming one.

          • Bob_Wallace


            Thank you.

      • J999

        I would have thought a major city would be a good place to grow your crops, if land is available. You’re right by your major market.

  • Marion Meads

    Wow, less than $1/Watt installed. $9.5M/12 MW = $0.79/Watt installed! Can any of the US companies install it as cheap, or do you still need to do be greedy to get the maximum profit that the market can bear and delay the solution to revive our planet’s atmosphere?

    • Michael G

      I hope that’s true I have been looking into construction costs and you really have to see a detailed audit to figure out what’s included. Sometimes only actual construction costs are included. “Soft costs” like project management, design and engineering, site preparation and acquisition, etc. are sometimes not included in the reported costs. Sometimes they are. You can’t tell from the PR which often tries to make it seem cheaper than it really was to make the agency seem like smart negotiators.

      Soft costs can be a third of the total costs so that $10M could really be $15M if no soft costs were included.

      Anyway – it’s a good thing they built it – no complaints.

      • Kevin McKinney

        Well, presumably land acquisition wasn’t a cost at least!

      • kart

        There’s no such PR tricks in this case. Its the total cost. Including the land if any was acquired for this specific purpose.

        Here’s it straight from the source.


        • Jacob

          Airports have plenty of spare land for future terminals and runways.

          The land was always there and empty.

      • tontytonty

        dfdf hgh

      • Ronald Brakels

        On the bright side, boasting can be a good way to help drive down prices. Everyone wants their project done for the headline price. And with PV costs continuing to fall and engineering firms learning by doing, there often is room for the next project to be done more cheaply. And then the next round of boasting begins.

        But when it comes to reverse auctions and Power Purchase Agreements, we can be pretty sure they are all in prices. I expect reverse auctions in India to break $1 a watt soon, if they haven’t done so already.

    • Ronald Brakels

      It’s great news. Even assuming the cost of land wasn’t included, at $5,000 an acre that only adds a couple of cents a watt. Using a 10% discount rate it should produce electricity for under 7 cents a kilowatt-hour. Given how low interest rates are at the moment, if an 8% discount rate is used the cost of solar electricity drops to about 6 cents or less.

    • Sanjay Francis George

      Maybe you should start a company and provide cheaper services than the existing ones ! Make some money AND save the planet.

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