Can India Build the World’s First 100% Green-Energy Rail Network?

12 Aug

As a pioneer for railway transportation in Asia, India has pledged to become the first country in the world to use a railway network that is fully powered by green energy.

India has planned to materialize this vision within 10 years at a total cost of Rs 18,000 crores, in order to meet the enormous power consumption of the country’s railway network, which now accounts for approximately 2.4% of the entire nation’s power supplies.

The goal will be achieved with the help of Indian Railways, which plans to install PV power stations with a total capacity of 30 GW on 51,000 hectares of vacant plots of land to power railway transportation. The power from these stations will be used as a substitute for the power supplied by the country’s thermal power plants now, which entails the consumption of 2.6 liters of high-speed diesel (HSD) a year, on top of huge CO2 emissions. The plan is expected to generate thousands of potential job openings in the future.

As of this year, the Indian government has already begun to plan the installations of 1 GW of PV power and 300 MW of wind power capacities in the country. This is up from the existing capacities of 88MW and 103 MW, respectively. By the end of 2025, the country’s accumulated PV power capacities is set to hit a total of 5 GW.

In addition to powering the entire nation’s railway, the Indian government is expected to also start installing solar rooftop panels atop trains to power their electric fans, lighting, and battery charging devices. Up to now, a total of 19 narrow gauge coaches, 40 wide gauge coaches, and 50 freight-train coaches have already been furnished with rooftop solar panels on a trial basis.

The implementation of the green energy railway plan, as a whole, falls in line with the green-energy policy of the central government of India, which envisions the installation of 175 GW of renewable-energy capacities by 2022. Of these, approximately 100 GW will be from PV power capacities, and 75 GW will be from wind power capacities. By 2040, the total installation capacity in the country will rise to approximately 384 GW. The government plans to have all of its non-fossil fuels account for 40% of its power supplies by 2030, which will allow it to slash its total greenhouse-gas emissions by 33-35%.

As the first step for the green railway project, the Ministry of Railway is targeting to attain 100% railway electrification by 2020.

(Collaborative media: TechNews, first photo is for illustration, courtesy of zak zak via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

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