Aviation sector backs energy neutrality drive, Kochi’s example to be emulated

Kochi Airport, widely known for its efficient operations, has many firsts to its credit. It has been the first airport in the country (commissioned in 1999) which was developed on public private partnership (PPP). During its formative stage, it had turned heads when 10,000 non-resident Indians had pooled in funds for the development of this airport. In August this year, the airport notched a major distinction when it became the first airport in the world to run on solar power. Aviation sector backs energy neutrality drive, Kochi’s example to be emulated11Within the aviation circles, it was broadly seen as a trail blazing move which will become an example for other airports and a recent comment by the Union Aviation Minister testifies that now government has also begun pushing the large scale emulation of this solar model.

Going by some recent media reports, the aviation ministry has asked Airports Authority of India (AAI) to draw a comprehensive plan to make all functioning airports in the country energy neutral and has specifically told the authority to ensure that solar panels become functional at four airports before 2016-17 end. “I have asked AAI to work towards fulfilling their power needs by harnessing solar energy. Four AAI airports will be producing more than their requirement as they migrate to solar energy between now and February 2017,” Civil Aviation Minister, Ashok Gajapati Raju has been quoted as saying in a published report. Bhubaneswar, Madurai, Gaya and Varanasi are the four airports which government intends to cover in the first phase even as the civil aviation ministry wants solar panel installation exercise to start at other airports simultaneously. A recent comment by another senior civil aviation ministry official confirms that a momentum is building up in making Indian airports energy neutral on a larger scale. Five more airports – Ahmedabad, Chennai, Jaipur, Kolkata and Chandigarh are believed to be in the forefront of this drive where solar panel installation exercise is slated to begin by March 2016. At some of these airports, the solar power generated would be to the tune of 23 MW. The avant garde Kochi airport is presently generating 12 MW out of its solar unit.

Government stepping in to promote the practise of solar power usage in running airports is clearly a step in the right direction. Adopting solar power on a larger scale is not only the mandate of the government here but of the entire world considering the consistent environmental depletion. Solar power is not only more environmental friendly vis-à-vis other regular sources, but is also easy to sustain and cheaper in the long run. To augment power generation capacity in the coming years, the present government has its major thrust on solar power. The government wants solar power to account for 18 percent of total power generation capacity in the country by 2030 as against a meagre share of 1 percent presently. This entails linking many large-scale business operations with solar power and recognising airports in the early stages of this drive only mean making them future ready from the environmental perspective as well.

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