Indian Railways, one of the world’s largest railway networks, is aiming to reduce its ecological footprints. In line with its commitment to sustainable practices, the Railways is all set to begin production from its most giant solar plant in Bhilai, Chhattisgarh. With a capacity of 50 megawatts (MW), this solar photovoltaic plant is the Railway’s most prominent project and a testament to its dedication to promoting renewable energy.
As part of its initiative to utilize vast and unoccupied areas, the Indian Railways installed a solar plant near Charoda, a national highway in Bhilai. Under the Raipur Division of the South East Central Railway (SECR) zone, the plant covers a sprawling 200-acre area and boasts an impressive installation of 154,500 solar photovoltaic panels. This strategic utilization of unoccupied land is a commendable step toward maximizing the potential of renewable energy generation.
The Bhilai solar plant aligns with the Indian Railways’ vision to transform its operations into a more environmentally friendly mode of transportation. Vipin Vaishnav, Senior Divisional Commercial Manager of the Raipur Railway Division, emphasizes that such projects aim to make the Railways greener. By reducing its reliance on fossil fuels and augmenting renewable energy, the Railways is actively working to minimize its carbon footprint.
The Bhilai solar plant marks the second solar facility commissioned by the Indian Railways, following the 1.7 MW unit in Bina, Madhya Pradesh. This milestone underscores the Railways’ commitment to scaling up its renewable energy initiatives. With plans to establish more solar plants in different regions, the Railway aims further to enhance its green energy capacity and sustainability efforts.
The electricity generated by the Bhilai solar plant will be supplied to the Power Grid Corporation. This offers flexibility in utilizing the energy across the country. The Railways can draw the exact quantum of energy from the regional grid, depending on demand, to power trains or other commercial purposes. This adaptability ensures the efficient utilization of renewable energy and contributes to a cleaner and greener rail network.
In May 2023, the solar plant became operational, and it is projected to result in annual savings of ₹100 crores (US$13 million) for the Indian Railways in terms of electricity expenses. Additionally, the plant is anticipated to reduce around 80,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. By 2025, the Indian Railways aims to generate 100 MW of solar power for its sustainability efforts.
The Bhilai solar plant project was assigned to Sherisha Rooftop Solar SPV, a Chennai-based company. Upon completion, the company will operate the plant for over two decades. Such public-private partnerships highlight the collaborative approach taken to leverage expertise and resources from various stakeholders, thereby driving sustainable development in the rail sector.
The Indian Railways’ largest solar plant in Bhilai represents a significant milestone in its journey towards minimizing ecological footprints. This ambitious renewable energy project showcases the Railways’ commitment to sustainability and catalyzes the broader adoption of green practices in the transportation sector. With more solar plants on the horizon, the Railways aims to become a shining example of a sustainable and environmentally conscious rail network.