Flexible Solar Panels Are Being Added To India's Trains

Indian Railways, the fourth largest rail network in the world, is looking to add solar panels and battery packs to 250 different trains. They'll be testing out the technology first in an effort to add five gigawatts of solar power.


Nov. 19 2020, Updated 9:41 p.m. ET

India’s been constantly pushing toward renewable energy. Nearly a month ago, they announced a goal to only sell electric vehicles by 2030. The biggest coal producer in the world that’s located in their country has announced a shutdown of 37 mines. Another step they’re taking is placing solar panels on their railroad system.

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Indian Railways is going to limit their fuel usage by installing solar panels and battery packs on 250 trains. The Economic Times reports that six cars will initially get the additions. They'll be attaching flexible 4.5 kilowatt solar panels and lithium-ion batteries that are either 110 or 120 volts. These will be tested out in the public for two months.

Evaluation will be made on how the solar panels attached to the trains will absorb the sun’s energy. Hero Future Energies’ CEO, Sunil Jain, explained how these panels would impact the cars in the report. “Flexible solar panels on moving trains is a good idea. However, efficiency of solar panels on moving trains is something which needs to be seen...Additionally, these panels would also increase the weight of the train requiring extra fuel to move them.” 

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There’s further plans on a larger scale. Indian Railways can run 25 percent of their energy from sustainable sources by 2025. Based on studies released from the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water, it would require an investment of $3.6 billion US. They would be able to install five gigawatts of capacity and this would be completed over the next few years. 3.9 gigawatts would be for utility-scale projects while rest are rooftop-based.

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This massive push already began back on February 1st. Arun Jaitley, the Indian Finance Minister, said that 300 stations were already adding rooftop solar systems and the number would quickly jump to 2,000. Ultimately, 7,000 railroad stations in India were going to be equipped with solar power generation.

All of this solar production is only the beginning, and it’s completely affected the coal industry. Not only is Coal India shuttering lots of mines in the next year, but 14 gigawatts of planned coal-fired power plants have been scrapped. That’s good news for urban areas that are dangerous to be in for longer than a half hour.


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