On July 14, Indian Railways introduced its first train with rooftop solar panels, the beginning of a series of projects to move away from diesel and towards solar power. Indian Railways hopes to produce approximately 1,000 megawatts of solar power by 2020. That will both cut into the railway’s fuel bill and help the Indian government work towards its own goal of producing 175 gigawatts or 175,000 megawatts by 2022.
India’s trains are currently wholly powered by diesel; in 2014, the trains in the Indian Railways used 2.6 billion liters (2.75 billion quarts). The new train still has a diesel-powered locomotive, but it has 16 solar panels on its roof that supply power to the fans, lights and information display systems in the passenger cars. The panels replace the diesel generators that used to power the cars’ appliances. The Indian Railways estimate that a train with six solar-powered passenger cars would save about 21,000 liters (22,190 quarts) per year. That would result in a savings of Rs12 lakh or 1.2 million Rupees every year.
The new train will be sent to the suburbs of New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world. Two dozen more passenger coaches are slated to be retrofitted with solar panels, plus a battery to store any excess power and an inverter to ensure optimal power generation. It will cost Rs9 lakh to install solar systems on each car.
The Indian Railways Organization for Alternate Fuels (IROAF) hired Jakson Engineers, a company based in the city Noida, to develop the rooftop solar system. Sundeep Gupta, Jakson Engineers’ vice-chairman and managing director, described some of the challenges in designing a solar system for a train to the newspaper “Business Standard.” The trains’ speed, which could reach 80 km (49.7 miles), made the project difficult.