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‘Feeding solar power directly to Railways can save 7 mt carbon’

V Rishi Kumar Hyderabad | Updated on September 01, 2021

Plans are under way to deliver 20 GW of solar generation to match the growing demand for energy to move trains   -  The Hindu

Avoiding grid will reduce energy loss, enable savings, says new study

Direct supply of solar energy to Indian Railway lines without using the grid can potentially save almost 7 millions tonnes (mt) of carbon a year. “This could power one in four trains on the national network on competitive terms,” according to a study by Indian NGO Climate Trends and UK-based green tech start-up Riding Sunbeams.

During 2019/2020 Indian Railways’ annual report said itspassenger traffic was over 8 billion and one-fourth of this capacity could potentially travel on trains directly powered by solar energy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently announced that the electrification of railways is progressing fast and it aims to be a net-zero carbon emitter by 2030.

Important suggestions

A mix of electrification, energy efficiency and a switch to renewable energy will be needed to enable this goal. Indian Railways has earmarked huge areas of unproductive land for solar development as part of its net-zero commitment.

Plans are underway to deliver 20 GW of solar generation to match growing demand for energy to move trains. A quarter of this new solar capacity could be fed directly into the railway’s overhead lines instead of over the electricity networks, reducing energy losses and saving money for the rail operator.

The researchers found that substituting energy supplied from the coal-dominated grid for private-wire supply from solar could also rapidly cut emissions by as much as 6.8 mt of CO2 each year – just over the entire annual emissions of Kanpur.

‘Tremendous opportunity’

The report’s co-author, Leo Murray, Founder and Director of Innovation, Riding Sunbeams said, “Right now, India is leading the world on two vital climate frontiers – rail electrification and solar power deployment. Connecting these two keystone, low-carbon technologies in Indian Railways can drive both India’s economic recovery from the Covid pandemic and its efforts to transition away from fossil fuels to tackle the climate crisis.”

Aarti Khosla, Director at Climate Trends said, “There is tremendous opportunity of doing it right by creating a direct connection of the locomotive system to solar PV installations, meeting more than a quarter of the total demand.”

Fuel-cost savings

Achieving net-zero by 2030 can save ₹17,000 crore in fuel costs and other savings per year. Ajay Mathur, Director General, International Solar Alliance (ISA) said, “The study shows that Indian Railways could harness the power of the sun and lead the way towards decarbonisation.”

Arunabha Ghosh, Chief Executive Officer, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) said, “Building on the goal for 100 per cent electrification of the railways, it would be logical to embrace and scale up solar and wind to reach net-zero emissions by 2030.”

Published on September 01, 2021

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