Indian Railways is soon going to materialise its ambitious plan of harnessing solar energy to run trains.
The prototype of the solar power-enabled coach is undergoing trials, and soon the entire train will be fitted with solar panels, officials said.
They said that while solar power will significantly bring down diesel consumption, it will also prove to be cost-effective. At present, nearly 17 units of electricity are being generated from the solar power enabled coach.
As the pilot project, one non-AC coach has been fitted with solar panels on the rooftop. The trial has been successful so far with the coach generating nearly 17 units of electricity every day. Depending on its success, decision will be taken to convert the entire train into a solar power-enabled one,” said Divisional Railway Manager, Arun Arora.
Officials said that by harnessing solar power, the railways will be able to save Rs 1.24 lakh per coach year.
“Solar energy will be used to meet the electricity needs in moving trains, and reduce diesel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions,” Arora said.
According to studies, a train using solar power can reduce diesel consumption by up to 90,000 litres per year and also bring down the carbon dioxide emission by over 200 tonnes.
As per the plan, the train would be pulled by conventional diesel-run engines while solar panels will provide all the internal electricity needs for lights and fans on both AC and non-AC coaches.
Officials said India has huge solar power potential, with a good amount of sunlight available for a major part of the day round the year. Harnessing solar power to power Indian Railways is more feasible and cost-effective.
The clear motive of the project is to cut down on the railways’ fuel bill, which is the second-largest component of expenditure after the employee salaries for the cash-strapped government behemoth used by over 1.3 crore people every day.
In 2013-14, from the Rs 1.27 lakh crore of Indian Railways’ expenditure, nearly Rs 28,500 crore (22 per cent) were spent on fuel.
According to a Northern Railway official, 40 sqmetre of space is available on a train’s roof top. Of these, nearly 24 sq-metre of space is covered with 12 solar panels. The remaining 16 sq-metre of space can further accommodate six solar panels, officials said.
As per the mechanism, alternate coaches are provided with solar panels and when required electricity is fed from the adjoining coach.
Indian Railways has been focusing on alternate source of fuels with trials already on to use CNG, biodiesel and natural gas among others.
CNG is being used in local trains on Rohtak–Rewari section of Delhi Division. The dual fuel concept of using CNG and diesel has also helped in saving fuel and money.