Solar power plan at Bhairahawa airport hits a snag over land rental ratesUtilising airport space to install solar panels will allow electricity to be generated at the point of consumption.
The plan to make the upcoming international airport in Bhairahawa a fully solar-powered facility has snagged on the issue of rental rates for the land belonging to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.
The Nepal Electricity Authority plans to install solar panels to produce around 10 megawatts, and run the airport fully on power from the sun. The surplus power will be fed into the national grid. Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa could become the second fully solar-powered airport in the world when it opens this year, after India's Cochin International Airport which earned the distinction in 2015.
Initially, the solar plan had also set off an argument between the Civil Aviation Authority and the Nepal Electricity Authority over sharing the income generated from the solar power.
“Now, we don’t have any issue over sharing the income, but the power utility has to pay the rental for our land as per our guidelines,” said Pradeep Adhikari, chief of National Pride Projects at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal who also oversees Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa.
“We have agreed to provide the land,” he said, adding that the Nepal Electricity Authority was getting a grant from the Asian Development Bank to produce solar power.
Manoj Silwal, chief of the Project Management Directorate of the Nepal Electricity Authority, said the lease rental of the land has not been finalised. Silwal did not elaborate, but said that the issue was the 'rate' which has not been settled yet. “But the issue may be sorted out within two weeks,” he told the Post.
It’s been months since talks regarding solar power started, but both parties have not reached any conclusion, an Asian Development Bank official said.
“We may proceed after both parties—Nepal Electricity Authority and Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal—come to a common conclusion,” he said.
It’s a big and unique project for a country like Nepal, but no one seems serious about such a novel development, the official said.
In July last year, a team of energy and aviation officials visited Malaysia to study the solar power system at Kuala Lumpur International Airport and concluded that the plan to make Bhairahawa airport a fully solar-powered airport was technically viable.
The study has shown that installing a solar farm on the airport premises will not pose a risk to flight safety, handling and communications equipment.
The solar project that is expected to receive a Rs1 billion grant from the Asian Development Bank will be spread over 10 hectares of land inside the airport.
Gautam Buddha International Airport is expected to be completed soon with test flights planned for March.
The team studied the solar project at Kuala Lumpur International Airport powered by a 19-megawatt direct current system installed in 2014. Solar panels with anti-glare features have been mounted on the roof and on the ground at the facility.
Anti-glare technology is used to prevent light pollution at airports, military facilities and ground-mounted solar plants adjacent to high rises. This is done by coating an anti-reflective film on the glass of photovoltaic solar panels.
Once fully solar-powered, the entire airport operation—from air traffic control, baggage claim and runway lights to ground control rooms and passenger terminals—will run on solar energy.
Utilising airport space to install solar panels will allow electricity to be generated at the point of consumption, eliminating energy bills and the need for expensive transmission lines and supporting infrastructure. The solar plant is estimated to cost nearly $10 million, or $1 million per megawatt, and take around six months to complete.
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