India is waking up to a new age – the age of clean renewable energy and conservation of fossil fuel. From being a nondescript developing nation that finds mention in the footnotes of global chronicles, our great nation has stepped into the centre stage and taken on a leading role in the global battle against climate change and global warming.
In the Paris COP 21 Climate Change Summit in 2015, India and France together launched the Solar Alliance – an initiative joined by about 120 nations committed to a greener future.
Not only did India launch the alliance but also hosts its headquarters in Gurugram (Gurgaon), near the capital New Delhi. The alliance will raise investments worth about Rs 100 crore to put in place the infrastructure to produce solar energy in large quantities.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also made a commitment to source over 40 percent of the country’s energy needs from “non-fossil fuel based sources” such as solar power, wind, and hydropower by the year 2030. The government has taken initiatives to promote solar energy generation across the country.
Delhi Metro To Go Fully Solar
Tying in neatly with India’s commitment to the environment, its people, and the world are Delhi Metro’s plans to go fully solar.
“In order to be carbon neutral and insulate itself from electricity price increase which has been about 20 percent per annum in last five years, DMRC is planning to explore the possibility of purchasing power to meet its entire requirement from a solar developer who will be selected through transparent bidding process”, DMRC officials had said a couple of years ago.
In 2015, media reports had suggested that the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) was exploring the possibility of acquiring a 500 MW solar facility in the state of Rajasthan in an effort to completely source its energy requirements from solar sources. News from 2016, however said that solar power from the upcoming 750 MW solar power unit in Rewa (Madhya Pradesh) will now be used to run Delhi’s metro trains. This plant, built by the NTPC with help from the World Bank is set to be the largest in the world. Delhi Metro is estimated to source over 363 million units of power each year from this plant for a period of 25 years from the time the plant becomes fully functional (in 2017).
Redesigning the Metro
While we wait for the Rewa power plant to become fully functional, the DMRC has also decided to make structural changes to its stations and office buildings to boost the production of solar power.
Rooftop installations set up in many of the DMRC stations and buildings are likely to generate about 20-MW of solar energy. While this may only be a fraction of the 150-MW power requirement posed by the Delhi Metro, such production is capable of managing the needs of numerous functions of the metro stations.
With the expansion of the metro network in the capital, DMRC’s power requirement is likely to go up to 250-MW. By 2020, the DMRC will have completed its rooftop solar panel installation and is likely to generate about 50-MW of energy.
To help in its mission to rein in solar energy, the DMRC has signed an memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI).
Such redesigning of the stations and offices to include solar power generation units is not a recent development. In 2015, the Delhi Metro had commissioned the installation of 9 solar power generation facilities along the Badarpur-Faridabad route. The 1660.4 kWp power generated by these units are being used to light the depot buildings and metro stations.
Other Developments In India
It looks quite likely that if the Delhi model works, metro railways in other parts of the country may soon adopt this model. The Adani group inaugurated the world’s largest solar power plant (functional as of now) in Tamil Nadu in November 2016. The Rs 4550 crore plant is capable of producing 645-MW solar power and is set up across an area of 5000 acres in Kamudhi (in Ramanathapuram district). Chennai Metro and even the southern railways may source its power needs from this plant.
In May 2016, Northern Railways also experimented with solar power, fitting solar panels on six coaches of a broad gauge train running through the Jodhpur Division. Solar panel fitted trains already ply in the Kangra Valley and on the Kalka to Shimla route, though these are all narrow gauge trains.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu also announced that all railway buildings across the county would be fitted with solar panels capable of 14 lakh units of energy annually for the Indian Railways.
The target that India has set itself is an ambitious one. By 2022, the government plans to bring energy to 60 million households and if this is to become a reality along with conservation of the environment, the nation must start investing in large scale solar power plants similar to the ones in Rewa and Kamudhi.