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Riding The Waves: A GE-Engineered Project in India Allows Delhi’s Airport To Run On Renewables

Will Palmer
July 06, 2022

Indira Gandhi International Airport, in Delhi, can claim a host of superlatives: It’s the busiest in India, with some 37 million passengers passing through last year, and in March it became the second busiest in the world — after Atlanta’s airport — in terms of airliner seat capacity. Now it can boast another. The airport is the first in India to operate entirely on power generated by a combination of sun and water. It’s also the first of its size in the world to run completely on renewables.

The airport started on the path to renewables a few years ago when it installed solar panels to generate electricity. That step was able to supply about 10% of its power needs, but since June 1, a new hydropower plant 300 miles north of the city in Himachal Pradesh, a state in the western Himalayas, has produced the remaining roughly 90%. There, GMR Energy and GE Hydro Solutions built the Bajoli Holi Project on the Ravi River. The power station’s three units churn out a total of 180 megawatts (MW) of electricity, and two-thirds of that power will go to the airport. The estimated carbon savings, according to operator Delhi International Airport Limited will be 220,000 pounds of CO2 per year. This is expected to enable the airport to meet its net-zero goals by 2030. The hydro plant is also providing electricity to the local population of Himachal Pradesh.

“It gives us immense pleasure to announce that the 180-MW Bajoli Holi Project has been commissioned despite a series of challenges created by the pandemic,” says Brian Selby, GE Renewable Energy Hydro Solutions’ regional general manager for Asia, China and India. “Thanks to the fantastic support extended by our customer GMR as well as the expertise and dedication of the GE Hydro Solutions teams, all the three units were commissioned as committed.”

The Bajoli Holi Project is what’s known as a run-of-the-river (ROR) hydroelectric facility. Unlike conventional hydroelectric, which relies on large reservoirs, an ROR facility uses only the natural flow of a river and is thus subject to seasonal fluctuations. To keep a consistent supply of power going to the airport, Bajoli Holi uses a pondage system that allows generation to continue year-round.

“We wholeheartedly appreciate the GE Hydro Solutions team and their enormous efforts to bring this project to fruition,” says Sanjay Barde, CEO of GMR Energy. “The immense hard work put in by them to commission all three units within 11 days of water availability while adhering to all quality and safety norms is commendable.”


Image credit: GMR Energy