Indian Railway Organisation for Alternate Fuels (IROAF) is a specialized department of Indian Railways focused on adoption of alternate fuels for use in Indian Railways. The Indian Railways is one of the largest railway networks in the world transporting more than 8.1 billion passengers and 1.1 billion tons of freight annually. It operates almost 11,000 trains on a daily basis, of which 7000 are passenger trains and the remaining are goods trains. It is owned and operated by the Government of India, through a dedicated Ministry of Railways. The Indian Railways is considered the lifeline of the country traversing the entire nation with a total laid track of 108,706 kilometres and 7216 stations. It is also one of the largest employers in India with a workforce exceeding 1.5 million people. For administrative purposes, the Indian Railways is divided into 16 zones that cover the entire network across the country with their own geographical area. Each zone is headed by a general manager.
In line with its objective to promote use of solar energy in the railways, IROAF decided to commission a pilot solar PV systems project for Diesel Engine Multiple Unit (DEMU) passenger train coaches at the Indian Railways Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai. IROAF was to act as project lead for this project with support from Zonal Railways for performance testing and trials.
As mandated by rules for all government projects in India, IROAF floated a tender to identify firms capable of delivering this project. The tender received lukewarm response from prospective Solar EPC players due to the challenges involved. Only companies with strong engineering expertise in the solar EPC segment participated in the tender.
After examining the solution offered by several solar companies, Jakson Engineers Limited was awarded the contract for executing this project. Broad scope of work included supply, fixing, testing and commissioning of solar PV system on Broad Gauge DEMU coaches on-site at the Indian Railways Integrated Coach Factory in Chennai. Fixing solar panels on the roof of train coaches that operate at top speeds of 90 – 110 kilometres an hour called for innovative engineering. Jakson with its vast expertise and experience in delivering innovative engineering solutions in solar deployed its team of engineers to develop a viable solution for the project. Another challenge was retro-fitting these to already built coaches of the Indian Railways. Retro-fitting is always a big challenge because of multiple constraints. However, the Jakson team was able to develop an innovative solution to fix solar panels atop the coaches that could withstand high wind speeds. The solar panels were bound with wind breakers and fixed atop the coaches with specially designed U-clamps. The clamps were then welded to the body of the coach. A single coach was retrofitted with 16 solar panels, each producing 300 watts in ideal sunny conditions, generating a cumulative power of 4.8 kilowatts for each coach. The generated power will be used to power lights and fans inside the coaches for use by the passengers. This single solar PV project will help Indian Railways reduce carbon-di-oxide emissions of 300 tonnes and save 95 thousand litres of diesel per rake annually.
According to its Vision 2020 document, the Indian Railways plans to meet 10 percent of its energy needs from solar and outlined plans to set up 1000 MW of solar capacity in the country. The successful execution of this project opens up a big opportunity for Jakson and the overall solar industry. As mentioned earlier, the Indian Railways is one of the largest rail networks in the world with a fleet consisting of almost 50,000 passenger coaches. Adoption of solar by Indian Railways for all its coaches will open up a big opportunity for solar EPC players. It will also contribute significantly to the environment and the future of the planet by reducing significant amount of carbon emissions.
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