Indian Railways plans to utilise its vacant land to set up solar power plants of 30 gigawatt (GW) capacity in a bid to lower its operating ratio. According to an HT report, Indian Railways plans to set up the plants to generate 10 GW under the first phase of the initiative which will also aid the national transporter in lowering its energy bill of around Rs 30,000 crore each year. The operating ratio is the amount it spends as a proportion of the amount it earns. Currently the operating ratio is at its highest level at 111%. Presently, for every Rs 100 that Indian Railways earns, it spends Rs 111.
An official at the Ministry of Railways was quoted in the report saying that there is a potential to set up 30 GW solar power plants in which there will be solar panels along the tracks and over unoccupied land. In the first phase, Indian Railways will go for only 10 GW and the formalities for the same are being worked out. Solar Energy Corporation of India (SEC) will most likely be tasked to issue the tender, the report said.
The new figures are a significant increase over the previous target of 1,000 MW (or 1 GW) of solar power and 200 MW of wind energy by 2020. The old plan also involved 500 MW of solar power generated through rooftop installations across all 8,000 railway stations in the country. The official added that they had earlier planned 1 GW of power mostly for non-traction purposes, 500 MW for land-based and 500 MW on rooftop (work for ) which is already going on across all stations. The 500 MW land-based solar plant was to be installed on the Madhya Pradesh government’s land.
Now, Indian Railways is planning to go beyond that and do the work on its land. Indian Railways has 51,000 hectares of vacant land and it will have to identify which patch will be suitable for this. The non-traction power involves the use of electricity for powering the stations whereas traction refers to the overhead cables used for powering locomotives.