Thursday, June 25, 2015

Test of Solar Panels on Shatabdi Express

By Siddharth Prabhakar
Published: 25th June 2015 l
This is the first phase of extensive field trials that will be conducted by the IISc team led by Dr Sheela Ramasesha and professor J Srinivasan after they published a study in the journal ‘Current Science’ calculating the solar power yielded by panels fitted on a slow-moving Yeshwantpur-Bhopal train for over 40 hours.
“We concluded, in theory, that 90,000 litres of diesel could be saved annually. But we wanted real-time data to record how much solar energy can actually be generated from the panels on a moving train where a number of other variables come into play,” said Ramasesha, speaking to Express over phone from Bengaluru.
The study attracted a lot of inquiries from railway officials and soon Ramasesha and her team were interacting with the Indian Railway Alternative Fuels Organisation (IROAF) in June 2014 and it directed them to the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai for getting a custom-made coach for the experiments. “A scientific analysis is necessary to prove the feasibility of such trains and frame guidelines,” she said.
For the trials, a special sleeper class LHB coach was fitted with two flexible solar panels of 180 Watt each, matching the exact curved shape of the coach rooftops, at the ICF. Research fellows M Shravanth Vasisht and Vashishta Ademane travelled with the equipment to record the real-time data of solar power generated every minute.
The Shatabdi Express was chosen as it moves at a high speed and has lesser stops. “A pyranometer - which measures the solar irradiance on the panels - and a vibration sensor have also been installed on the coach,” said Shravanth. He has been assigned to the ICF to closely monitor the fabrication of the panels.
A crucial factor to be studied is how the speed of the train would affect the solar power generated, said Ramasesha.
“When trains move at a high speed, there is greater wind thrust. The solar irradiance may not be the same at all times and at all locations,” explained Shravanth. In fact, during  Wednesday’s journey, there were many areas where the yield was less due to cloud cover.
The vibration sensors would help the scientists examine how train journeys could affect the body of the panel and help in future improvements.

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