Pakistan Railways Follows The Sun, To Shift Stations To Solar

Pakistan Railways has finally made a call to shift 155 railway stations to solar energy. The move follows a prod by the federal government to use alternative environment-friendly energy resources. The railways PR Director Nazia Jabeen says that the cost of the project would be Pakistani Rs 450 million. Pakistan, which has an existing installed solar capacity of just under 2 GW, has a target of 12.8 GW by 2030 according to figures released by its National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA).

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The shift should be welcomed in a country which, despite all the conditions for a thriving solar sector, has been a laggard, when it comes to renewable energy.  Mainly because of the power system being locked on to thermal power producers, Chinese contracts for yet more thermal, and finally, high losses that have stifled a ready market. That however, hasn’t stopped private enterprise in the sector, with rooftop solar and use of solar for water pumps and more catching on in recent years. Thermal (64%) and Hydro Power (27%) account for the major share of the energy mix currently. According to the World Bank report from 2020, utilizing just 0.071 percent of the country’s area for solar photovoltaic (solar PV) power generation would meet Pakistan’s current electricity demand.

In the first phase, to be started after the presenting of the federal budget for 2021-22, she said that 81 railway stations would be equipped with backup of 8 hours after solarization of the entire electric system.

While 22 railway stations would be shifted to solar energy where a computer based interlocking system was working. “As many as 22 railway stations would be converted to solar energy where only 2 hours backup would be provided whereas 52 railway stations would be solarized where no backup would be provided”, she informed.

The project capacity of the project has been estimated at 2308 kilowatts and 3.2 million units per annum with 20 per cent efficiency to be produced in a year. “The project life will be 25 years and total 83 million units of electricity will be produced, “ she said. After installation of the project, the railways would save Rs 52 million annually which is spent on fuel and maintenance of diesel generators.

The official said that PR would save Rs 70.62 million per year due to the tariff difference between solar and WAPDA electricity cost. Pakistan Railways has total route length of just over 11,000 KMs.

In India, the government has similarly used the massive railways system to push rooftop solar, wit the railways setting a target of 2030 to be net zero. That will ensure almost all stations are solarized, with close to 1400 on their way to get there by the year end. While it has set an initial target of 3 GW for solar, it’s 2030 target is 20 GW of solar using vacant railway land.  With route length of over 67,000 KMs, Indian Railways is the fourth largest rail network in the world, and carries the highest number of passengers annually.

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