Southern Railway on track to Energy-neutrality by incorporating different renewable energy sources: Mr. Ganesh, DRM, Chennai Division
Dr. MGR Railway Station in Chennai (Southern Railway), in September 2021, became the first Indian Railway station to meet its daytime energy requirement through solar power. This landmark achievement was a result of the Southern Railway’s (SR) pursuit of adopting ‘Energy neutrality’ in the zone. The solar power facilities were installed back in 2019 but due to COVID-19, the potential of Solar energy couldn’t be harnessed.
The Chennai Central Railway Station is having 600KWp of Solar Plant installed which matches its 100%-day time power requirement. In order to reduce the carbon footprint, Indian Railways is aggressively pushing towards installation of roof mounted solar plants at platform shelters of stations and service buildings along with other renewable energy projects. In addition to this, land based solar plants are also being installed on vacant railway land parcels. It aims to become “Net-Zero Carbon emitter” the world’s largest green railway network by 2030.
Southern Railway has worked extensively on the call of Indian Railways by reinventing itself as a leading force in terms of adopting green energy. The Quotes reached out to Mr. Ganesh, Divisional Railway Manager, Chennai Division and held a detailed telephonic conversation to understand the nitty-gritty of the task and the kind of challenges he and his team faced in their quest to convert Chennai Central Station into a 100 per cent solar-powered facility. Excerpts of the conversation.
Congratulations on achieving such a magnificent feat marking your contribution towards green-energy. Kindly help our readers understand the importance of transforming Chennai Central Station into a solar-powered facility?
Indian Railway has expressed its commitment towards becoming the Net-Zero Carbon emitter by 2030. As a responsible stakeholder, we understand the significance of the vision and what the consequences would be, if not acted upon now. Southern Railway has shown its potential in introducing unique and impactful initiatives which eventually has inspired other zones to follow the footmark in the past.
MMC, suburban railway complex, NGO complex and Central Station are having solar roof mounted plants of 1.5 MWp, capacity, where spare capacity of solar power is diverted to other nearby railway units.
The reduction of carbon-footprint is not only an act towards preserving nature but is also economical as our expenses on energy is reduced. The Southern Railway zone is fully pledged for ‘Energy-neutrality’ in the division and has a clear vision to achieve the daunting task. We will keep exploring various ways and will take help from cutting-edge technologies in order to achieve our target.
What was the expected timeline for Chennai Central station to complete the task and the kind of challenges your team overcame during the whole process.
REMCL, a conglomerate between Ministry of Railways Limited and RITES Limited, is the nodal agency of Indian Railways responsible for setting up of renewable energy projects including solar power plants on Indian Railways. Division officials identify the locations for solar plants, followed by feasibility analysis by REMCL. Our team facilitates the company who gets the contract from REMCL in installation of solar plates in the Chennai division.
When we began working towards converting Chennai Central Railway into solar-powered facility, the biggest challenge for us was to not hamper with the architecture of the building as it is a heritage site. So, we decided to use roof of new concourse of the station and platform shelters for installation of solar plants. Once the installations were done, we started measuring the amount of energy being produced and soon we realised that all our day-time energy requirement was being fulfilled.
Kindly help our readers understand the enormity of work force which is steamrolling the functioning of the solar-plant at Chennai Central station?
A Renewable Energy Service Company (RESCO) is an ESCO (Energy service company) which provides energy to the consumers from renewable energy sources. RESCO model is about pay as you consume. Solar Power Plant is owned by the RESCO or ENERCO (Energy Company) and Railways has signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the investor at mutually agreed tariff and tenure. RESCO developer is responsible for its annual operations & maintenance (O&M). Panel upkeep is a necessity as dust can build-up which poorly affects the panel’s performance. With the advancement of the technology, mechanised cleaning of panels has been adopted which prevents damage to platform shelters.
South Central Railway zone has committed itself towards making the whole zone ‘energy neutral.’ What are the other significant steps being taken in the Southern zone to achieve the target?
As per the policy we are trying to maximise the usage of renewable sources of energy. We have identified additional roof tops on platform shelters and service buildings where rooftop solar plants can be installed. We have used solar water heaters on service building.
Now, we are in the process of installing flower turbines along with solar plants each having 1.5 KW capacity at three locations on trial basis. Flower turbines are different and much more efficient than conventional windmills.
Conventional windmills are big in size, create noise, require large space and are maintenance intensive. We will further explore the possibility of installing flower turbines near railway tracks where air turbulence caused with the motion of trains will drive vertical axis flower turbines generating energy. We are in talks with a company in Hyderabad who can provide us ‘flower turbines’ with solar plants attached to it.