Indian Railways is green, although not literally, but in terms of being more eco-friendly by building solar power plants alongside the railway tracks across the nation.
47,300 hectares of vacant land that stretches out alongside the tracks is covering up 90% of the total property in the possession of Indian Railways is ready to be utilized for a green purpose. Alongside introducing new trains and services, the Indian Railways will now make the better use of those 15-45 m wide linear stretches on both the sides of railway tracks across the country to be commercially used to set up solar power plants. Post implementation, every 1.2 km-stretch of the land is estimated to house 1 MW solar capacity. Solar panels are already roof-topped on 19 narrow and 23 broad-gauge in-service coaches.
Solar Energy Corporation of India will be inviting the tenders and a proposal to issue it in two portions of 2 GW each has been made. The tenders for 4 GW solar power plant are expected to bring in business opportunities of Rs 18,000 crore, and private companies in the domestic solar industry will be invited to agree upon the tender terms of ‘Make in India’ project, and build solar power plants. This will not only promote environment friendly energy, but will also off burden the Indian Railways from power purchase costs, which currently reaches to Rs 10,000 crores to compensate the demand of 16 billion units of electricity which costs around Rs 6/unit.
The structure-document for the project has proposed that the first portion would be of development in Odisha, Haryana, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Punjab while the second in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Kerala, spanning to total 10 states. This green power project is in line with the government’s latest advancements in the railway sector where a stretch-route of 30,212 km is already commissioned on electric traction. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had, in September 2018, approved the proposal for electrification of 13,675 km track-stretch of the balance un-electrified broad-gauge routes. This move, afoot, is expected to bring down a ‘2.8 billion litre diesel-oil consumption’, thereby reducing the energy bill by about Rs 13,000 crore per annum by FY22.