In a significant development, Indian Railways has set up a solar power plant in Bina in Madhya Pradesh to power the Railway overhead lines that power the electric locomotives. According to Railway officials, this is the first time in the world that solar power will be used to run trains.
While Indian Railways, and other railway networks in the world, have been using solar power, they are mainly used to fulfil the electricity requirements of stations, residential colonies and offices etc. Indian Railways has also installed solar power panels on the roof of some coaches, which supply electricity for lights in the coaches. But till now, no Railway network has used solar power to actually run trains by powering the locomotives.
The 1.7 megawatt solar power plant has been set up as a pilot project by Railways in collaboration with Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited (BHEL) on Railway land near the tracks in Bina. The plant will have stepped up voltage of 25,000 volts through transformers to be fed to the overhead power lines of the Railways to power the traction system of the locomotives. The feed from the plant has been synchronised with the 25kV Railway Overhead Line. The solar plant will generate DC electricity which will be converted into AC through an inverter and will be set up into 25KV AC energy through a transformer. The solar plant will generate 24.82 lakh units of electricity annually. Railways hope to save Rs 1.37 crore annually from this plant in power bill.
According to reports, the solar panels were provided by BHEL for free. Railway officials have said that they plan to install solar power plants with a total capacity of 3 Gigawatts. These power plants will directly feed the traction power for locomotives. The plants will be completed in 2-3 years, and tenders have been already invited for the same. The 1.7 MW Bina plant was set up on an experimental basis to prove the technology ahead of the larger 3 GW solar power plant. The official said that extensive testing is going on for the same.
Foundation for the project that was laid in November last year, and testing on the solar plant started last month after completion of its set up. The complete design of the plant has been done by BHEL in consultation with railway engineers.