Chugging on the Sun

The launch of the first solar-powered train is another nudge at India’s ambitious renewable push

Published 7 years ago on Jul 18, 2017 1 minute Read

On July 14, Indian Railways rolled out its first-ever solar-powered diesel electrical multiple unit (DEMU) train from Safdarjung railway station in New Delhi. The train will be deployed on the capital city’s suburban railway system. Six coaches in the train have 16 solar panels on their rooftop, with each panel capable of producing 7,200 kilowatts of energy every year. The batteries installed in the solar system will ensure enough energy is stored to power up the train’s internal lighting, fans and information display systems.

Manufactured at Integral Coach Factory in Chennai and commissioned by Jakson Engineers, the solar train boasts of 1,600 hp, a 25-year lifespan and is estimated to save 21,000 litres of diesel – that is, about Rs.12 lakh annually, according to the Railways.  

The train will also implement other environmentally friendly technologies such as bio-toilets, water-recycling, waste disposal and the harnessing of wind energy. The Indian Railways has ambitious plans of harnessing solar energy by incorporating new technologies such as flexi solar panels and lithium batteries. Apart from this, it is also in talks to make a solar-powered train grid for Mail and Express trains.

But how far has Indian Railways succeeded in its renewable endeavours? Every year, the Railways consume 2.5 million tonnes of diesel, accounting for 70% of its fuel bill. By 2020, the transportation network aims to produce about 1,000 MW of solar power, which will significantly reduced the fuel bill. But the progress made thus far is hardly inspiring. An installation target of 1 GW worth of solar capacity was announced by the Indian Railways in 2015, but only 16 MW has been installed as of March 2017. Given the dismal rate of progress, the Railways renewable journey will take a long time reaching its final destination.