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Commendable step! Solar panels to be fitted on Indian Railways trains on trial basis for all seasons

Nikita Prasad

Indian Railways has taken a big step towards clean energy! Piyush Goyal-led Railway Ministry has decided that it will be installing solar panels on the rooftops of general coaches in the intercity trains of Northern and Southern Railways which run for two days. It will also provide rooftop solar panels for 50% of the narrow gauge coaches plying on the Pathankot-Joginder Nagar route in Kangra Valley section and Kalka-Shimla section of Northern Railways. This decision has been taken for conducting extended trials of solar panels over rooftop of trains, for one year in all weather conditions. Rajen Gohain, Minister of State of Railways recently gave this information in a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha.

Previously, Indian Railways has already provided solar panels on rooftops of 19 narrow gauge coaches for trains in Kalka Shimla railway line and Kangra Valley in Northern Railways and for 23 broad gauge non-air conditioned coaches in railway service. Out of these 23 broad gauge coaches, 13 coaches are in two trains of Northern Railways, seven coaches in one train of Southern Railways, two coaches in one train of Konkan Railway and one coach in one train of West Central Railways. The system works during sunlight and generates battery backup of approximately 4 to 5 hours. But the panel system does not work properly during foggy weather/rainfall and during winter season. During these weather conditions, the battery backup of solar panels goes down to 2 to 3 hours.

In order to avoid this non-functionality, Indian Railways has decided that the solar panels will be provided on the rooftop of coaches in few trains of Northern and Southern Railways for conducting trials. The trials will be conducted for an extended period of one year, irrespective of any weather condition.

Indian Railways had in July 2017 launched its first DEMU (diesel electric multiple unit) train in which the lights and fans were powered with the help of roof-top solar panels. This helped in reduced consumption of high speed diesel and CO2 emission. Indian Railways has been extensively looking to use renewable energy – solar power – to meet its electricity needs for not only trains, but for stations as well. Several stations across the Indian Railways network of the country, namely, Katra, Guwahati, New Delhi are harnessing solar power in a bid to move towards more environment-friendly ways of meeting energy needs.