A new dawn ushers on Indian Railways as it endeavors to be self-reliant for its energy needs as directed by the Prime Minister and solarise railway stations by utilizing its vacant lands for Renewable Energy (RE) projects. Railway is committed to utilize solar energy for meeting its traction power requirements and become a complete ‘Green mode of transportation’.
The Ministry of Railways has decided to install solar power plants on its vacant unused lands on mega scale.
The use of solar power will accelerate the Minister of Railways, Shri Piyush Goyal’s mission to achieve conversion of Indian Railways to ‘Net Zero’ Carbon Emission Railway.
Indian Railways present demand would be fulfilled by the solar projects being deployed, making it the first transport organisation to be energy self-sufficient. This would help in making Indian Railways green as well as ‘Atma Nirbhar’.
Indian Railways has acted as a pioneer in green energy procurement. It has started energy procurement from various solar projects like 3 MWp solar plant set up at MCF Raebareilly (UP). About 100 MWp rooftop solar systems have already been commissioned on various stations and buildings of Indian Railways.
Besides, one project of 1.7 MWp at Bina (Madhya Pradesh) which shall be connected directly to Overhead Traction System has already been installed and is presently under extensive testing. It is likely to be commissioned within 15 days. This is the first of its kind project in the world commissioned by Indian Railways in collaboration with Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL). It involves adoption of innovative technology for converting Direct Current (DC) to single phase Alternating Current (AC) for feeding directly to Railway’s overhead traction system. The solar power plant has been established near the Bina Traction Sub Station (TSS). It can produce approximately 25 lakh units of energy annually and will save around INR 1.37 Crore for Railway every year.
Indian Railways (IR) and BHEL officials have worked tirelessly to successfully implement this innovative project. The project was undertaken by BHEL under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) scheme. Despite the COVID-19 lockdown and consequent difficulties faced in the availability of material and manpower, IR and BHEL worked together as a team to accomplish this mission in just 8 months from the date of signing of the agreement on 9th October, 2019. The key challenge in this project was the conversion of DC power generated from solar panels to the single phase 25 KV AC power which is used by the Railways traction system. This required the development of high capacity inverters with single phase output which were not readily available in the market. The solar panels generate DC energy which will be converted into AC energy through these unique inverters and stepped up to 25 kV AC -1 ϕ through the transformer to directly feed power to the BINA TSS which will be used for running of electric trains.
In addition to this, two pilot projects for the scheme of land based solar plants for meeting electric traction energy requirements of Indian Railways are under implementation. One of them is a 50 MWp solar power plant on vacant unused land at Bhilai (Chhattisgarh) which shall be connected with Central Transmission Utility (CTU) and is targeted to be commissioned before 31st March, 2021. The 2 MWp solar plant at Diwana (Haryana) which shall be connected to State Transmission utility (STU) is expected to be commissioned before 31st August, 2020.
Railway Energy Management Company Ltd. (REMCL) is working relentlessly to further proliferate the use of solar energy on mega scale. It has already floated tenders for 2 GW of solar projects for Indian Railways to be installed on unutilised railway lands. Indian Railways is also adopting an innovative concept of installation of solar projects along operational railway lines. This will help in preventing encroachment, enhancing the speed and safety of trains and reduction of infrastructure costs due to direct injection of solar power into the traction network. Another tender for installation of 1 GW solar plants along Railway tracks is also planned to be released soon by REMCL.
With these mega initiatives, Indian Railways is leading India’s fight against climate challenge and is taking significant steps towards meeting its ambitious goal of being a net zero carbon emissions organisation and meeting India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) targets.