Can wind from moving train generate power? PMO’s curious query to Railways

Rail Bhawan officials said that the idea was not workable and they would communicate this to the PMO.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi | Published: September 15, 2014 3:02 am
train-L Experts have dismissed the idea of windmills being installed along railway tracks to produce electricity, utilising the wind generated by fast moving trains. (Source: File photo)

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has sent the Railways Ministry into a tizzy over an idea it received from an 81-year-old resident of Gujarat —  that windmills be installed along railway tracks to produce electricity, utilising the wind generated by fast moving trains.
Vipin Trivedi of Ahmedabad, a former employee of Bank of Baroda’s Agriculture and Rural Development wing who retired in 1991, sent the idea by post to the PMO. The PMO, in turn, forwarded it to the Railways Ministry, asking it to explore the “techno-economic” feasibility of the idea, and sought regular updates.

Since the idea came from the PMO, Rail Bhawan officials started serious communication with Trivedi, but also politely told him that it did not sound doable. As per documents accessed by The Indian Express, Railways said Trivedi could be called in the future to give more technical details about his idea. Trivedi is waiting.

“One day, I was travelling by train and the idea just struck me. So I discussed it with my gurubhai (disciples of a godman) who knew a man who had worked closely with Narendrabhai (Modi) in overhauling Gujarat’s power sector. That man is now posted as the Additional Principal Secretary to the PM in Delhi. So I sent the idea to him by post,” Trivedi told The Indian Express from the Nandigram Ashram in Bharuch last week, where he was attending a course on “spiritual wellbeing”. “If they call me to Delhi, they should be willing to seriously discuss the idea,” he said.

Although nobody in the ministry was convinced about Trivedi’s idea, top Rail Bhawan officials have been applying their time and energy, keeping the Chairman, Railway Board, informed as well.

“A train will pass the windmill in less than 20 seconds. Even if there is a train every 15 minutes, a windmill can operate for only 25 minutes per day. This will not be viable economically. Further, the energy produced by the windmills would have to come from the trains only, which will consume extra energy,” said a mail Trivedi received from the ministry on September 1.

The email exchange has been regular. Another email sent a few days before that said, “We will, however, like to have some more technical details with regard to your suggestion, which may be sent to us for further detailed examination.”

Rail Bhawan officials told The Indian Express that the idea was not workable and they would communicate this to the PMO. “There is nothing wrong with anyone in the country coming up with any new idea. It is our job to take them seriously and see if they can be executed,” said a senior ministry official.

When contacted, Prof Anil Gupta of IIM Ahmedabad, an expert in alternative sources of energy, told The Indian Express, “This is not a practicable idea. Especially with Railways, it will not work at all because of the frequency of trains and the cost of the windmill, the transmission and distribution of power would all work against it. The amount of power generated would also be unfeasible.”

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