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Go Green: India launches its first solar-powered local train
( 16th August, 2017 )

Indian Railways has launched the nation’s first solar-powered local train, which has a battery bank facility to ensure sufficient power even if there is no sunlight. The power needs of the train’s coaches, including lights, fans, and information display system will be met by energy produced by solar panels that are fitted on top of the coaches of the diesel electric multiple unit (DEMU) train.

The development is aimed at reducing air pollution in India. There is an environmental crisis staring at us. Despite several measures being taken at the Centre and state levels, there has been no let-up in air pollution levels and particulate matter pollutants in the air. Delhi Smog was a scary case. It was a reality check of the pollution in India’s big cities. Air quality reduced to hazardous levels. A World Health Organization (WHO)‘s study of 1,600 cities ranks the national capital Delhi as the most polluted. Air pollution was 40 times more than permissible safety limits prescribed by the WHO and 15 times greater than Indian standards.

The train was launched at the Safdarjung railway station in New Delhi. Union Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhu, who inaugurated the train, says the development is a ‘path-breaking leap’ in the direction of making Indian trains environment-friendly. The minister also said that it was a reflection of the commitment of Indian Railways to be environmentally responsible and that the department was trying to decrease its carbon footprint and use cleaner and green fuels to provide greater thrust to utilization of non-conventional or alternative sources of energy.

DEMU trains are local trains with a multiple-unit which is powered by on-board engines without the need for a separate locomotive. The power needs of passengers are met through a diesel-driven generator, for example, lights, fans, etc. Indian Railways is taking other environment-friendly measures too such as the use of water-recycling, bio-toilets, waste disposal, CNG/LNG, as well as harnessing wind energy.

Whereas the solar train was manufactured at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai, the solar power system as well as thesolar panels were fitted and developed by the Indian Railways Organization of Alternative Fuel (IROAF). Around 24 more coaches are to be fitted with the system inside 6 months. A smart inverter has been used in the system that optimizes power generation in a moving train in order to cater to a full load even during night hours. This is achieved with the help of a battery bank which ensures sufficient electricity.

The new system aims to reduce diesel consumption and carbon footprint by cutting down on carbon dioxide generation by 9 tonnes per coach per year. Indian Railways also claims that by extension a solar-powered DEMU train with six coaches saves 21,000 liters of diesel, saving Rs. 12 lakh every year.

Industry-friendly policies by the Indian government and renewable-energy attractive economics is helping in transforming the outlook of this sector in India. A report by global firm Ernst and Young (EY) says India has moved up one spot on Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index 2017. The country was placed on the third position for the past two years.