Indian Railways is planning to set up 500 Megawatt of solar power generation capacity that will meet the energy needs of more than 8,000 stations across the country going forward. The idea is to cut down carbon footprint, reduce dependence on power utilities, bring down energy bill under the “net zero energy” plan and, at the same time, put its mega land bank to use. “We have a rough assessment of 8,000 stations with a 500 MW capacity which will be covered eventually under the plan. For the stations to be covered under the Station Redevelopment Plan, we are opting for Net Zero Energy concept. For the 23 stations identified in the first phase, along with six stations under Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation Limited (IRSDC), we aim to minimize our energy consumption from outside sources,” a senior rail ministry official told ETEnergyWorld.
The national transporter has been struggling to get No Objection Certificates (NOCs) from state governments for using transmission lines following Central Electricity Regulatory Commission’s (CERC) order granting it a deemed distribution licensee status. The ministry now plans to set up its own transmission lines to overcome dependence on state power utilities. “In the second phase, we aim to consume zero energy from outside and be fully self-sufficient through our own solar power plants. We will soon be launching tenders for a 50 Megawatts (MW) solar power plant at Bhilai in Chhattisgarh. Railway Energy Management Company Limited (REMCL) will set it up. They will put equity and borrow from the market. The evacuation system is available and we will use the Central Transmission Utility (CTU) network,” the official said.
The Railways is planning to utilize 1,000 acre of land for setting up a solar power plant at Agra in Uttar Pradesh (UP) for which tenders will soon be issued. The railways has identified 5,000 acres of land across the country which cannot be used for commercial purposes so we plan to set up solar power plants. Experts say the plan has the potential to cut down railways’ energy bill by 40 per cent. “The plan is very sound. Railways is a large consumer of electricity. If it can generate its own energy, either at surplus land or on the rooftops of the railway stations, that makes a lot of sense because solar power costs are coming down significantly,” said Vinay Rustagi Managing Director at BridgeToIndia, a renewable energy-focussed consultancy firm. He, however, added that the plan may face a challenge – availability of solar power for only seven to eight hours a day. The Indian Railways has a current renewable energy generation capacity of 36 Mw and plans to ramp it up to 1,000 Mw.