In the first phase, the project will produce 6.6 billion units of power.
In a bid to become a net-green transporter, the Indian Railways is planning to replace 4,000 MW of coal-fired electricity to run its trains with solar energy from modules deployed on both sides of select electrified tracks in 10 states.
The Railway Board is examining the project bid document, stipulating local manufacturing for 1,200 MW of equipment under the ‘Make In India’ initiatives, prepared by Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), an entity under the renewable energy ministry. The tender, estimated to be worth Rs 16,000 crore, is expected shortly.
“This is a historic step towards Indian Railways becoming a ‘net zero emitter’ by 2030. Indian Railways is by far the greenest travel option for transportation,” Railways and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal told TOI.
The sources said under the proposal, Railways will offer vacant land, often threatened by encroachment, on both sides of the identified tracks. The promoters will make the investment on solar panels and other equipment. The investment will be recovered from the sale of power.
There are several firsts to the proposal. Firstly, power from the panels will be fed through inverters and step-up transformers directly into the 25 kV overhead traction system, removing the need for laying separate transmission lines.
Secondly, the project will kick off manufacturing of 25 kV single-phase inverters which are so far limited to smaller-capacity rooftop segment.
Railways is estimated to save 20% of the annual energy bill in the first year and 40% thereafter. Besides, the project will save Railways land from encroachment. In the first phase itself, the project will produce 6.6 billion units of power. This compares well against 16 BU (billion units) used for traction every year out of total consumption of 18.5 billion units worth Rs 10,036 crore.
Railways will consume the total output from the project and may make arrangement for energy banking with states. Under the arrangement surplus solar power can be supplied to the state utilities, which will supply equivalent power when Railways need it.