Indian Railways is going all out to reduce its fuel costs and adopt solar power in a major way. Apart from planning large-scale solar power projects and rooftop solar power systems, the world’s fourth-largest railway network is planning to install solar panels on top of coaches.
Indian Railways has floated a tender for installation of solar panels atop 250 trains to power fans and lighting systems. The tender, according to media reports, would require winning companies to install battery systems in addition to solar panels.
Companies selected through the tender process will be required to install flexible solar panels and battery systems on six trains on experimental basis. These trains will be put into commercial operations and performance of the panels and batteries would be tested for a period of two months before a decision on large-scale implementation is taken.
Indian Railways, through the mandate of the central government and its own target to shift to clean energy sources in the long-term, has taken numerous initiatives in the recent past. A study by the United Nations Development Program stated that Indian Railways could source as much as 25% of its energy needs from renewable energy sources by 2025.
The Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) has found that Indian Railways could set up 5 gigawatts of solar power capacity, through rooftop and utility-scale projects, to significantly increase its consumption of renewable energy over the next few years.
The study by CEEW shows that 3,900 megawatts of utility-scale projects and 1,100 megawatts of rooftop projects can be installed by the Indian Railways with an estimated investment of $3.6 billion. Last year, the Indian Railways joined hands with UNDP to execute plans to set up 5,000 megawatts of solar power capacity.
Earlier this year, the Indian government announced a major push by Indian Railways in the rooftop solar power market, perhaps the largest in India and the world!
The Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that the 7,000 railway stations across the country will be fed with solar power as per the Indian Railways mission to implement 1,000 megawatts of solar power capacity. The minister made the announcement during the union budget speech on 1 February 2017.
The minister stated that work to set up rooftop solar power systems at 300 stations has already started, and soon this number will increase to 2,000 stations. According to data released by the Minister of Railways, India had 7,137 railway stations at the end of March 2015.
In the large-scale solar power market, Indian Railways is looking to adopt the model used by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), India’s largest subway system. DMRC has signed a power purchase agreement of around 200 megawatts with Rewa Solar Power Park located about several hundred kilometers away.
The Indian Railways has approached the government of Madhya Pradesh with a proposal to set up a mega solar power park with a capacity of 700-800 megawatts (MW). The project will come up at Shajapur, a few hundred kilometres east of the Rewa solar power park which received the lowest-ever tariff bid ever in India.