Greening the tracks: achieving the 1 gigawatt solar PV target of the Indian Railways

With the Indian Railways being a significant consumer of resources, especially energy, identifying cost-effective options and realising an energy system with minimal environmental impacts is essential. The Vision 2020 document of the Indian Railways states that a key target is to use at least 10% of its energy requirement from renewable sources. Further to this, the Rail Budget 2015-16 announced that the railways would aim to achieve an installed capacity of 1 gigawatt (GW) of solar by 2018-19. This initiative of the Indian Railways would be a significant contribution to India’s 100 GW solar targets under the National Solar Mission. This study uses techno-economic analysis to assess the potential of solar PV projects across various non-traction operations of the Indian Railways. The analysis includes diesel locomotive sheds, railway workshops, railway stations, railway offices, level crossing gates, and use of vacant railway land. A conservative estimate indicates that the Indian Railways could achieve about 40% of the 1 GW target at an estimated cost of around ~INR 2,930 crore. In the ‘Optimistic’ scenario, the Indian Railways could achieve close to 1.37 GW of installed solar PV capacity.