India’s current massive interconnected system of railways are currently all diesel-powered which leads to much pollution experienced throughout parts of India. But the completion of its solar powered train is set to change the tone of India’s railway future through alternative energy.
It’s no surprise that India is implementing solar trains as opposed to fuel-driven alternatives. It’s currently one of the largest producers of solar energy in the world and has committed to the use of alternative energy sources, particularly solar, for the long term.
So on July 14, Indian Railways rolled out its first train with rooftop solar panels that power the lights, fans, and information display systems inside passenger coaches. Although the train will still be pulled by a diesel-powered locomotive, a set of 16 solar panels atop each coach will replace the diesel generators that typically power these appliances. The railways estimate that a train with six solar-powered coaches could save around 21,000 liters of diesel every year, worth around Rs12 lakh.
The first of these trains will be put into service on the suburban railway network of New Delhi, one of the world’s most polluted cities, before two dozen more coaches are fitted with similar rooftop solar systems. Retrofitting each coach with this system, including an inverter to optimize power generation and battery for storing surplus power, costs around Rs9 lakh.
The innovative rooftop solar system was developed by the Noida-based Jakson Engineers, with collaboration with the Indian Railways Organisation for Alternate Fuels (IROAF). “It is not an easy task to fit solar panels on the roof of train coaches that run at a speed of 80 km per hour. Our engineering skills were put to a real test during the execution of this rooftop solar project for Indian Railways,” Sundeep Gupta, vice-chairman and managing director of Jakson Engineers told the Business Standard newspaper. The IROAF initially focused on bio-diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) to help diversify Indian Railways’ fuel mix, before looking at solar.
Indian Railways has ambitious plans for solar powered trains as its current trains are greatly outdated. By 2020, the state-run transportation network plans to generate around 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar power, which could be scaled up to 5,000 MW by 2025. These numbers are not only significant for the railways, given that it’ll help bring down the fuel bill, but will also impact India’s overall renewable energy goal of 175 gigawatts (1 GW = 1,000 MW) by 2022. Another interesting tidbit is that India is planning to sell only electric vehicles by 2030, which greatly increases electricity demand and if India continues to heavily invest in solar power, we could see a clean cycle of power generation and consumption with India leading the way for the rest of the world.