As tech and transport worlds continue to go back and forth on the concept of an ultra-futuristic-solar-powered-high-speed train, Indian authorities have announced a more feasible and achievable integration of clean energy into their railways. Announcing trail runs of a six-coach Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) train, fitted with 12 solar power units on the roof of each coach, Indian Railways is taking its first real steps towards the department’s ‘Solar Mission,’ announced by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in the budget for 2016-2017.
As reported by the Indian Express, the first trial run is expected in a matter of days in the city of Jodhpur – known as the ‘City of Sun’ for its year-round sunshine. While the solar panels will not power the movement of the train itself, they can generate 3.6 Kilowatts of electricity; far exceeding the 1.5 required to power all electrical appliances within the train, including lights and fans. Indian Railways has been committed to exploring alternate source of energy with trials already underway using compress natural gas (CNG), biodiesel and natural gas among others.
According to studies, a train using solar power can reduce diesel consumption by up to 90,000 liters per year and bring down carbon dioxide emissions by over 200 tons. As the world’s fourth largest railway network, India’s environment sets to benefit immensely if the solar initiative is fully adopted. Meanwhile, Indian Railways has been fitting solar panels on rooftops at railway stations and at level crossings across the country.
Noida-based firm Jakson Engineers Limited (JEL) is responsible for the solar panels that are ready to be tested, and it seems like Jodhpur isn’t the only city that’s going to be harnessing the sun. “We have dispatched solar panels for 30 DEMU coaches in Chennai and 50 DEMU coaches in Amritsar,” said Dinesh Khanchandani of JEL. Calculations by both parties estimate that $1900 per year per train can be saved if solar panels are fitted.