Railways sets up a solar plant to directly power the traction network

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Indian Railways, in collaboration with Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), has set up a 1.7 MWp solar power plant that shall be connected directly to its overhead traction system to run the electric trains. 

The project—at Bina city in Madhya Pradesh—has already been installed and will likely be commissioned within 15 days. 

The solar plant is established over the vacant railway land near the Bina traction sub-station. It can produce approximately 25 lakh units of electricity annually and save around Rs 1.37 crore for Railways every year.

The key challenge in this project was the conversion of DC power generated from solar panels to the single-phase 25 KV AC power used by the Railways traction system. This required the development of high-capacity inverters with single-phase output. 

The DC electricity generated by solar panels is converted into AC electricity through these unique inverters and stepped up to single-phase 25 kV AC through the transformer to feed the Bina traction sub-station and run electric trains directly.

Two other pilot projects under the land-based solar scheme are under implementation for meeting the electrical traction energy requirements of Indian Railways.

One is a 50 MWp solar power plant on vacant, unused land at Bhilai (Chhattisgarh), which shall be connected with central transmission utility. It is targeted to be commissioned before March 31, 2021.

The 2 MWp solar plant at Diwana (Haryana), which shall be connected to state transmission utility, is expected to be commissioned before August 31, 2020.

Gigawatt-scale tenders

The Railways, through Railway Energy Management Company Ltd (REMCL), has already floated tenders for 2 GW of solar projects to be installed on unutilised railway lands.

These projects shall be set up along operational railway lines. This will help in preventing encroachment, enhancing the speed and safety of trains and reduction of infrastructure costs due to direct injection of solar power into the traction network.

Another tender for installation of 1 GW solar plants along Railway tracks is also planned to be released soon.