The Indian Railways is looking to set up a solar power plant in Bhilai (Chhattisgarh), where it has spare land, through Railway Energy Management Company Limited (REMCL). The project cost of the 50 MW plant is estimated at ₹200 crore. Of the total cost, 20 per cent will be borne by the Railways, while the remaining 80 per cent will be raised through debt. This means, the Railways will bear ₹40 crore of the construction cost, while the power will be purchased through a developer model, wherein the developers will be asked to operate and maintain the solar project. Funds mobilisation for the ₹200 crore project — estimated at ₹160 crore — could be raised from firms, such as Power Finance Corporation and Rural Electrification Corporation, said an official source.
Till date, the Railways has largely implemented rooftop-based projects. In 2017-18, the national transporter has a target to source 140 MW solar power through rooftop units, while 150 units can be sourced through land-based units, says a Railways Electrical Energy Management Directorate report. The move comes as the Railways looks to increasingly source funds from renewable energy, while also lowering its energy bill. While setting up power plants, the Railways usually looks for locations that are close to its consumption points so that wheeling or transmission charges can be reduced.
Wheeling charges vary across States and are in the range of ₹1-1.50 in some States. States, such as Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh are considered renewable energy-friendly as they do not charge wheeling charges for power sourced from solar plants.The Railways plans to increase its installed capacity target for solar power plants to 1,000 MW by 2020. Of this, 500 MW solar plants will be on rooftops of Railway buildings, and 500 MW plants can be set up on Railway land, after power purchase agreements are signed with developers, says the report.