IN WHAT started as an experiment to tap renewable energy for office use at railway stations, both Central (CR) and Western Railway (WR), claim that they have been able to save up to Rs 30 crore annually through conversion to green energy in the past two years. Through solar panels, windmills and LED lights, at least two railway stations have turned to fully green ones.
In a green station, each electrical item —including lights, fans and ticketing machines — run on wind or solar energy. On CR, Asangaon and Mankhurd stations have turned to “complete green stations”. According to the railways, the experiment has helped reduce the electricity bill by at least twice, compared to using conventional energy.
“We try to tap ideal places where solar panels could be set up for generating electricity. In places where wind flow is strong, we target to set up windmills. For solar panels, we aim to place the panels on the grids so that most railway stations can benefit from the green energy,” a senior railway official said.
Outside Mumbai, CR has converted some stations, like Jummapatti, Waterpipe and Aman Lodge between Neral-Matheran section, to green stations. Due to the climate in Mumbai, officials claim, tapping sunlight in most stations is easy.
“We are able to get sunlight for 300 days out of the 365 days in a year. During monsoons or days when it is cloudy, we try to use stored energy in the panels or convert to conventional ones if the concentration of day light is reduced,” a senior official said.
Officials claim that the experiment helped beautify the stations as LED lighting increases illumination at the stations by 40 per cent. In a unique experiment to tap green energy at stations, the WR has installed sunlight tubes/ sun pipes at Mumbai Central station. The tubes, installed in the concourse area, provides natural lighting during the day.
“The polycarbonate (PC) domes fitted in the ceiling collects and concentrates daylight. The tubes are able to cover up to 1,600 square feet of area at the station and allow uniform lighting. It also works effectively during low light, like rain and cloud conditions,” a senior WR official said.
The railways now plan to tap maximum stations, workshops and car sheds where renewable energy could replace conventional energy. “An expected annual saving of 6.83 Million Units and Rs 5. 03 crores has been envisaged due to conversion to LED. In addition to this, WR is also aiming, in the next phase, to provide energy-efficient LED lighting on all EMU coaches by the end of June 2018,” a senior WR official said.
For regular commuters, green energy has helped accentuate the look of the stations. Sharada Joshi, a passenger who commutes from Mumbai Central to Andheri on the WR, said: “The concourse area looks really pretty between 8 and 9 am. It is a brilliant use of engineering to tap solar energy inside stations. But there might be problems in the monsoons.”