India’s trains are responsible for carrying more than 25 million passengers and about 3 million tons of freight every day. Almost all of these trains get their power via electric lines or diesel generators. Indian railways consumes an average of 4 GW of power, which is about 2% of the country’s total electric generating capacity.
Indian Railways (IR) and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) are always looking for new ways to reduce fuel costs and the biggest breakthrough comes in the form of solar trains. The reasons are simple enough; the trains operate above ground and mostly during daytime hours. Photovoltaic panels placed on the train seem like a logical thing to do, doesn’t it? According to studies, imparting solar power to a train can result in reduction in its diesel consumption by 90,000 liters per year while the annual CO2 emissions are reduced by 200 tons.
IR is as of now conducting a pilot study where one coach has been provided with a 2kW array of PV panels. As per the early results; annual fuel savings have increased by $1800 just from one car while as an added bonus, when the train is parked, it is capable of exporting solar-generated electricity back to the grid following a net-metering agreement.
Additional tests are being carried out during the Monsoon season to check out the feasibility in worst-case scenario as well. Apart from measuring solar irradiance and panel output, the team is also carrying out vibration analysis to ascertain the long-term stress on panels.