The success story of Cochin International Airport Limited is something which set a new example in the infrastructure development of the state. The number one airport in the state, CIAL is also on the greener path by turning into solar power for its entire operations
World’s first sully solar powered airport! That’s Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) to the world. The first green field airport in the country to be built with private-public partnership and the seventh busiest in India handling more than 8.9 million passengers (during 2016-17) and the weekly aircraft movement of 1200. CIAL’s story is something which can be studied on how an effective leadership helps to grow as an international brand.
Planned and constructed from scratch, the airport owes much to V J Kurian IAS, the Founder Managing Director of the company and Late K Karunakaran, former Chief Minister of Kerala. While it was the brain child of the former, the latter become the guidance and patronage of the project. Today it is been acclaimed for setting a novel idea in infrastructure development. The astonishing public participation, relentless support from NRIs and an effective leadership have made CIAL, the company that built and operates the airport, an international brand.
The commercial operations from CIAL started on 10 June 1999 with international flight to Dammam. Today there are 24 airline companies operate from the airport today, which facilitates direct connectivity to GCC, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.
An international airport with public private partnership and materialising it in a successful way was something which had not been heard in those days. Today CIAL showcases a sustainable business model with total turnover of Rs.524.5 crore during the last financial year. It is now the only airport in Kerala, which handled eight million passengers a year. The airport saw business growth to the tune of 26.71% in the last year. Profit grew by 21.19%. There are a total of 18,200 investors in the project from 36 countries. The company has been paying dividend since 2003-04, and up to 2014-15 the total dividend outgo has been 153%.
The airport has emerged as the seventh largest in the country in terms of total passenger traffic. The airport expects a total turnover of Rs.3,000 crore by 2023. The areas to increase the income include duty-free business, solar energy projects as well as diversification of business into other areas.
The solar glory
The first airport in the world that completely operates on solar power, CIAL’s 12 MWp solar power plant was inaugurated on 18th August 2015 and comprises of 46,150 solar panels laid across 45 acres near cargo complex. Now, Cochin airport’s solar power plant is producing 50,000 to 60,000 units of electricity per day to be consumed for all its operational functions, which technically make the airport ‘absolutely power neutral’.
The story of looking at the possibilities of solar happened back in 2013. CIAL, which has always been adhered to the philosophy of sustainable development, ventured into the Solar PV sector by installing a 100 kWp solar PV Plant on the roof top of the Arrival Terminal Block. This was a trend setter in the field of gridconnected solar PV in the State of Kerala. The plant was installed by the Kolkata based M/s Vikram Solar Pvt. Ltd. 400 numbers of polycrystalline modules of 250Wp with five numbers of 20kW capacity Refu-sol make string inverters were used in this plant. After the successful commissioning of this plant, CIAL installed a 1 MWp solar PV power plant partly on the roof top and partly on the ground in the Aircraft Maintenance Hangar facility within the Airport premises. This plant was installed by Emvee Photovoltaic Power Pvt. Ltd. 4000 numbers of monocrystalline modules of 250Wp with thirty three numbers of 30kW capacity Delta make string inverters were used in this plant, which is the first Megawatt scale installation of Solar PV system in the State of Kerala.
Both these plants are equipped with a SCADA system, through which remote monitoring is carried out. After commissioning, these plants have so far saved more than 550MT of carbon dioxide emission contributing to the efforts of CIAL towards minimising environmental degradation. Inspired by the success of the above plants, CIAL decided to set up a larger scale 12MWp solar PV plant as part of its green initiatives. This was set up in an area of about 45 acres near the International Cargo complex. The work has been awarded to M/s Bosch Ltd. The project components include PV modules of 265Wp capacity manufactured by Renesola, and Inverters of 1MW capacity manufactured by ABB India. With the commissioning, this installation is expected to generate around 48000 units per day, which along with the electricity generated from the existing 1.10 MWp plants, making the total output around 52,000 units a day and would be sufficient to meet the power requirement of the Airport. This is a grid connected system without battery storage and a power banking module with the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) has been worked out; wherein, CIAL gives as much power it produces (in day time) to (the grid of) KSEB and ‘ buy ‘ back the power from them when needed (especially in night).
“When we had realised that the power bill is on the higher side, we contemplated possibilities. Then the idea of tapping the green power came in. We consume around 48,000 unit (KWh) a day. So if we can produce the same, that too by strictly adhering to the green and sustainable development model of infrastructure development that we always follow, that would transcend a message to the world. Now this has become the world’s first airport fully operates on solar power,” said V J Kurian. “In fact, we are producing a few megawatt of extra energy which is being contributed to the state’s power grid,” added him.
This plant will produce 18 million units of power from ‘sun’ annually-the power equivalent to feed 10,000 homes for one year. Over the next 25 years, this green power project will avoid carbon dioxide emissions from coal fired power plants by more than 3 lakh metric tons, which is equivalent to planting 3 million trees or not driving 750 miles.