To achieve its objective of becoming 100 per cent self-sustainable for all its power needs and also to contribute to national solar power goals, the Indian Railways organised wide-ranging discussions with developers of solar projects under the chairmanship of the Minister of Railways and Commerce & Industry, Piyush Goyal.
The Indian Railways is committed to utilising solar energy for meeting its traction power requirement and become a complete ‘green mode of transportation’.
The primary areas of discussion in this meeting included the implementation of innovative solutions for setting up solar projects along the railway tracks, possible power procurement routes for achieving 20 GW renewable energy target, set by Asia’s second-largest rail transporter to become the net zero carbon emitter by 2030 and the challenges in large-scale deployment of solar energy projects.
Acknowledging the efforts being made by the Railways in leading the development of renewable energy in the country, the developers expressed their strong support to the effort.
This is in line with the recent directive of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to solarise railway stations and utilise vacant railway land for renewable energy projects. This will also contribute towards the National Solar Mission, an initiative of the government to promote solar power.
Development of Solar Plants on Unused Railway Land
As a follow-up, the Ministry of Railways has decided to provide solar power plants on vacant unused railway land on a mega scale. A pilot project of 1.7 MW capacity with direct connectivity to 25 KV traction system has been successfully operationalised in Bina (Madhya Pradesh). Besides, a solar plant of 3 MW capacity has also been commissioned at Modern Coach Factory (MCF), Raebareli (Uttar Pradesh) for non-traction applications. Further, two more projects – one at Diwana (Haryana) for 2 MW and another at Bhilai (Chhattisgarh) for 50 MW capacity for connectivity with the State Transmission Utility (STU) and Central Transmission Utility (CTU), respectively, are in progress.
The use of solar power will accelerate Goyal’s mission to achieve the conversion of Indian Railways to ‘Net Zero Carbon Emission Railway’. To achieve this, the Railways has developed a mega plan for installing solar plants of 20 GW capacity by utilising its vacant land by 2030. With the ambitious plan of achieving 100 per cent electrification for Railways by the year 2023, the Railways’ energy consumption is set to become more than 33 billion units (BU) by 2030 from its current annual requirement of about 21 BU.
The Railways has adopted a multi-pronged approach towards decarbonisation, which 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 the Railways green as well as Aatmanirbhar (self-reliant).
In this regard, bids for 3 GW solar projects on Railways’ vacant land parcels and land parcels along the railway tracks have already been invited by the Railway Energy Management Company Ltd (REMCL). These solar projects, besides supplying power to Railways at a reduced tariff.
Goyal pointed out that the Railways is willing to extend all support to the developers for installing solar power plants on vacant un-encroached land. Boundary wall along the track will be constructed and maintained by developers, which will also help in preventing trespassing on tracks.
Adoption of modern indigenous technology to create an energy self-reliant Railways will contribute towards meeting India’s renewable energy targets and the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).