In a city where work and school are temporarily closed down due to air pollution, New Delhi’s train-carriages are getting powered by solar energy to save thousands of liters of diesel, with the objective of reducing the carbon footprint of the city of smog. The solar panels installed on the rooftops of the passenger vehicles power the lights, fans, and information display systems inside. However, the trains will still be pulled by a diesel-powered locomotive.

A set of 16 solar panels will be installed on top of each passenger vehicle, replacing the diesel generators that have been used to power appliances like lights, fans and information screens. The railway authorities estimate that a train with six solar-powered vehicles could save 21,000 liters of diesel a year, which would translate to savings of INR 1,200,000 ($18,649.4).

New Delhi

Quartz.

“It is not an easy task to fit solar panels on the roof of train coaches that run at a speed of 80 kilometers (49.7 miles) per hour,” says Sundeep Gupta, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of Jakson Engineers, which developed the rooftop solar system installed on the New Delhi train vehicles. “Our engineering skills were put to a real test during the execution of this rooftop solar project for Indian Railways.”

In 2014, Indian Railways consumed 2.6 billion liters of diesel, representing around 70% of the network’s total fuel bill. By 2020, the state-run transportation network plans to generate around 1,000 megawatts of solar power, rising up to 5,000 megawatts by 2025. These figures will not only impact India’s spending on nonrenewable energy, but will also impact India’s overall renewable energy goal of 175 gigawatt by 2022.

New Delhi

Journalists check out the battery panel of a DEMU train at the Safdarjung railway station. Photo: PTI.

In Jodhpur, plans were made public in May 2016 by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in the announcement of 2016-2017 budget. The authorities announced the integration of clean energy into the city’s railways, as the city took its first real steps towards the department’s ‘Solar Mission.’

Renewable energy has been present in the global train scene for some time now. It was announced that electric trains in The Netherlands would be powered by wind energy at the beginning of this year. The Dutch railway company, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) and Dutch electricity company Eneco signed a 10-year deal in which they agreed that by January 2018 all NS trains would run on wind energy.