In what could be a momentous move for our country's environmental conservation, Indian Railways will soon begin harnessing solar power to run its 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. The present capacity of a solar power-enabled coach is 17 units of electricity.
"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," Arun Arora, Divisional Railway Manager confirmed.
Officials believe that harnessing solar power will help Indian Railways to save Rs 1.24 lakh per coach every year. The main aim of the railways is to manage its fuel bill which constitutes as the second largest part of its expenditure, the first being its employee salaries.
The potential for solar energy in India is huge. Harnessing it will not only control diesel consumption (by up to 90,000 litres per year) and reduce carbon dioxide emissions (by over 200 tonnes), but also prove extremely cost-effective.
"Solar energy will be used to meet the electricity needs in moving trains, and reduce diesel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions," added Arun Arora.
As proposed in the plan, the train will run on a "conventional" diesel engine and its internal electricity requirements – for both AC and non-AC coaches – will be met by the installed solar panels.
According to a Northern Railway official, a train's roof top has a total surface area of 40 square metres. While 24 square metres of this space is covered with 12 solar panels, the remaining 16 square metres throw open the potential for six more.
As per the current system, alternate coaches are installed with solar panels and in case its needs more electricity it can be supplied from the adjoining coach.