India may soon be able showcase to the world a solar train, which uses a mix of thermal power and solar energy generated from panels on its roof.
Science and technology minister Harsh Vardhan said he was inspired by Switzerland’s Solar Impulse project. “I got the inspiration when the Solar Impulse, the Swiss long range experimental solar powered aircraft landed in India,” he said.
The minister described the project as the government’s bid to have a moving solar power plant. “We are looking into the project plan and once the demos are done we will collaborate with other concerned ministries,” he said.
To start with, the government will do a pilot on a goods train and if successful it will be replicated to other trains.
The train will meet 15% of the energy requirement when on the move from the solar energy. National solar energy expert tasked with engineering the project Gon Chaudhuri told HT, “A unique feature would be that when the train is stationary, 100% of the power will be exported to the grid. So it is like a mobile solar power plant”.
When the solar radiation falls on a solar cell, direct current is generated which gets converted into an alternating current with a high efficient inverter. This is then synchronised with the grid. Since the train will be moving less dust will accumulate on the panels — a factor that reduces efficiency of solar rooftop systems, Chaudhuri explained.
An average train would be able to generate 150kWh of power resulting in substantial revenue generation for the train operator. “This would be the first such initiative when a standing body is generating electricity and pushing it to the grid,” Chaudhuri said. “On a long run solar planes may not be commercially viable. But the solar trains have ample scope.”
Generating power from renewable energy is high on the Narendra Modi government’s agenda, with solar generation target for next eight years hiked by five times to 100 Gegawatts. Of this, the generation capacity for 40,000 MW will be from roof-tops. The solar train, with its rooftop solar generation, could help the government achieve its goals in the green energy sector.