Solar panels being used at an airport is not an entirely new concept. Airports make an ideal location for solar panels, with wide open spaces on the ground and large terminal buildings on which to build them. Over 100 airports worldwide make use of solar panels to produce clean energy for powering the terminal and sometimes even to contribute to the wider grid.

August 2015, however, saw a landmark event. Cochin International Airport in the Indian state of Kerala became the first in the world to be entirely powered by solar energy, making the airport completely energy self-sufficient. The 46,000 solar panels at the airport produce 12 megawatts of power, more than enough to run the airport’s operations.

The journey towards the fully solar-powered airport was a remarkably short one. Cochin Airport, which has always had a focus on sustainability, began work on solar power in March 2013, when the operator installed a solar plant on the roof of the Arrival Terminal Block. Two subsequent plants were then commissioned, allowing the airport to avoid more than 550 tonnes of CO2.

Following the success of this first foray into renewable energy, the airport ramped up its construction to produce a plant covering 45 acres near its cargo complex.

With the Indian Government’s recent solar energy drive, perhaps Cochin will not remain the only fully solar-powered airport for long.