Indian Railways, the fourth largest railway network in the world, has placed solar panels on the roof of a non-AC coach of Rewari-Sitapur passenger train, operated by Northern Railways. The panels, which came at about $6100, produce 17 units of power a day, providing sufficient electricity to power the lighting system in the coach. With this, the company estimated savings of just over $1900 per year.
Purely on trial basis, the company has also installed panels on two narrow-gauge trains on the routes Pathankot-Jogindernagar and Kalka-Shimla. If proven successful, the company will install panels on two other passenger trains– the Shan-e-Punjab Express and Taj Express.
Mounting solar panels on the passenger train is just a pilot study, part of a much bigger project. The company has set the aim to produce 1000 MW of solar power in the coming five years, by placing solar panels not only on coaches, but also on building rooftops that belong to the railway, as well as on level crossings across the country.
Through various private partnerships, the railway company has ensured the provision of 10KWp solar PV modules, which will be placed on 200 stations. In addition, 4.05MWp Solar PVs will be mounted on rooftops of 21 railway office buildings, and solar panels with capacity of 1.3 MWp will appear on 2000 level crossing gates.
The initiative came after the company conducted a series of studies to estimate the potential benefits of using renewables as a source of energy for in railway travel. They found that solar power can potentially cut down diesel consumption by as much as 90,000 liters per year. This also means that the carbon dioxide emissions can be brought down by about 200 tons.
Image (c) Northern Railways