Monday, February 06, 2017

Why is the rest of world unable to take on the solar powered Cochin International airport ?

It will be 18 months by mid February 2017 since Kochi international airport in Kerala, the third largest in India with a built up space of 2 million sq feet capable of handling 12 million passenger traffic (present traffic of 9 million) has been insolated (powered by solar energy) since 18 August, 2015. (click here for the link ..)
46,000 solar panels and a 12 MW power plant exist at this airport ..

Discussions were held with the primary stakeholders and with aspiring business management students pursuing MBA at Alliance University, Bangalore on why the rest of the world's airports were unable to catchup with Kochi, India, even after eighteen months or 550 days of Kochi airport insolation.

What all were the social, economic, geographical, environmental and technological factors that were an advantage for Kochi International airport compared to the rest of the world ? The major points are listed here.

1. Low levels of solar energy technology applications elsewhere - Even though it may be a bit crude to play down other countries, the rest of the world does not have the advanced solar energy generation and storage related technology to match up with India in solar applications

2. Spirited Societal support at Kochi - Insolation of Kochi airport was not just technology, it also involved societal and governmental support and backup, which came easily. Environmental preservation and energy conservation has been at the soul of every Malayalee.

3. High educational standards and awareness of people - The higher educational standards and awareness of the people of Kerala enabled them to see through the opportunities of insolation, ensuring spirited public support

4. Tie-up with Kerala Stata Electricity Board grid - Kochi international airport has accomplished a very masterly stroke of getting the Kerala State Electricity Board to accept the extra power generated during the day and supplying it in return at night, thereby avoiding the energy storage problem, which incidentally happens to be the greatest technology constraint and cost factor in any solar energy project

5. Patenting efforts - By patenting the technology on which the airport insolation was done, Kochi International airport has prevented other less advanced countries like US, Europe and China from plagiarising the ideas from Kochi airport

6. Low costs involved in the insolation efforts - Other countries in the world would find it difficult to insolate their airports at such low rates of $1.875 million per million passenger traffic, (total $10 million in 2015) but for the hard, sincere work, dedication and commitment of the team led by CIAL MD VJ Kurien and the whole technical team and staffat Kochi airport

7. Self-confidence in indigenous efforts - Strong belief and confidence in indigenous capabilities that Kochi would be the first in the world to achieve this feat was a great morale booster for the team

8. Geographical location of airport near the equator - Being near to the equator, app 10 deg North latitude and 76 deg East longitude, Kochi receives an annual daily average direct normal solar irradiance of 5.03 KWh / sq m / day (click here for the technical details link ). Compare this with the average annual solar irradiance of 5.2 KWh / sq m / day for Bangalore, India, 6.5 KWh / sq m / day for Dubai in UAE or 4.3 KWh / sq m / day in Beijing, China Click here for solar irradiance data around the world . 
It is observed that the farther one is from the equator and between the Tropic of Cancer (22.5N) and Tropic of Capricorn (22.5S), the higher the intensity of solar radiation received. The earth axis' tilt of 23.5 deg causes regions around the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn to receive normally directed solar radiations, having a higher intensity of radiation. ( this is because normally incident rays travel less distance through the earth's atmosphere, gets less scattered and transfers more energy to land). Kochi (10N latitude) and Bangalore (12N latitude) for that instance, would naturally be having lesser solar radiation than Dubai (25N latitude). 
Another contributing factor as to why Kochi and Bangalore are having low solar irradiance values is the impact of monsoons, South West and North East (a unique meteorological-geographical phenomenon observed only in South India in the whole world) which lowers the solar irradiance intensity in South India due to cloud cover and heavy rains from June to October every year.
Future benefits : The revenue from the first five years is enough to pay off for the cost of the airport insolation and for the rest 20 years life of the solar panels, energy at Kochi airport is virtually free of costs !! If Kochi airport is ready to waive off the airport fees, because of free energy at the airport which every national and international passenger has to pay at each Indian airport, and the landing and parking fees paid by airlines to the airport, it will be a step in the forward direction.

Besides if Kochi airport is also able to expand its physical infrastructure by building new terminals to overtake Delhi (handling 40 m passengers and a space of 5.5 million sq ft) and Mumbai (handling 36 m passengers and area of app 5 million sq ft), the present third largest international terminal in the country at Kochi will get noticed for its worthwhile efforts. It will herald a new dawn for Kochi airport. Kochi also may become the low-cost preferred first airport of landing for foreign airlines flying into the country. 

Wishing all good wishes to Kochi International Airport to conquer greater heights internationally ..



  1. Very nice to know Kochi airport has made such big strides...would be happy to pass through this airport once again and experience the change for myself. Thank you Dr. George for the post. Supriyo Ghose

    1. A proud moment, hope Kochi airport takes more strides and covers more ground in future ..

  2. Solar energy is a very viable source of energy for india ..Surprising that our planners and politicians are blissfully unaware of this natural and abundant source of energy. There should be funding for research from the government. Railways , ports , airports are ideal places to exploit this source.

    1. Thats true, hope our policy planners understand this infinite source of energy as early as possible.


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