Millennium Post

FM proposes setting up of solar power capacity alongside rail tracks

New Delhi: Aiming to become 'net zero' carbon emitter by 2030, Railways plan to source 10 per cent of its electricity needs through renewable energy sources by 2020. While presenting the Union Budget 2020-2021 on Friday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed the setting up of large solar power capacity alongside rail tracks.

India is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China and is among countries most vulnerable to climate change. Further, with a requirement of about 12 billion units of electricity a year, the power consumption by Indian Railways is growing at an average of 5 per cent a year. Therefore, railways plan to set up 1000 MW solar power plant and about 200 MW of wind power plants by 2021-22 across Zonal Railways and Production Units.

"IR has till date, installed 100.99 MW Solar and 103.4 MW Wind power across Railway installations," Vinod Kumar Yadav, chairman of railway board mentioned. This project will be in line with the commitment made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the International Paris Agreement on Climate change, 2015, where India has pledged a reduction of 33-35 per cent in emission intensity by 2030 from 2005 level, the ministry claimed.

Indian Railways primarily uses electricity and diesel for its traction applications. In 2018-19, Indian Railways consumed about 18 billion units (BU) of electricity (comprising around 1.27 per cent of the country's total power consumption) and 3069.30-tonne kilolitres of diesel (in 2018-19) for its traction need, data shows. The solar plants will be set up on unused vacant land. There is about 51,000 hectare of land available for railways. Out of which, it is estimated that available feasible vacant land has a potential of 10 GW for installing land-based solar plants.

While speaking to media, post Budget, the railway board chairman also mentioned, "A proof of concept of feeding solar power directly to 25 kV AC traction system of 5 kVA capacity is already demonstrated. Further, to scale up 2 pilot projects of 2 MW at Diwana (Haryana) and 1.7 MW at Bina (M.P) - already under different stages of execution & likely to be commissioned by March 2020." The Solar power will be generated and fed to the CTU/STU Grid or directly to 25 kV AC traction system.

Besides, the Budget of FY 2020-2021 further proposed four-station re-development projects and operation of 150 passenger trains would be done through the PPP model. The process of inviting private participation is underway. "150 trains will be run in PPP model also four stations will be redeveloped with the help of the private sector. 550 wi-fi facilities have been commissioned at railway stations," the finance minister mentioned in her Budget speech.

More semi-high-speed Tejas-like trains will be set up between major tourist destinations. More high-speed trains like the one between Ahmedabad and Mumbai will be run. Importantly, to get rid out of the Silicon Valley's traffic congestion, this Union Budget has also set aside Rs 18,600 crore for the much-delayed suburban railway project as an alternative mass transit solution to Bengaluru.

It also has a target of the highest ever Capex of Rs 1, 61,042 crore for 2020-2021, which was Rs 1, 56,352 crore in 2019-2020. The Budget further proposed the target of new lines, gauge conversion and doubling or tripling etc for the current FY is 3750 Route Kms against 3150 Route Kms in the previous year.

Indian Railways runs around 20,849 trains daily and transports 23 million passengers and three million tonnes of freight. It operates 10,773 locomotives, 63,046 coaches and 245,000 wagons.

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