The successful use of renewable energy in the segment of inland water transport seems to be powering authorities to take up even complex logistical ventures.
Buoyed by the success of its first solar passenger ferry service, the State Water Transport Department (SWTD) has drawn up an ambitious plan to operate a solar-powered roll on, roll off (Ro-Ro) service on the busy Vaikom-Thavanakkadavu route. The Department, in association with the Department of Ship Technology and Cochin University of Science and Technology, has commissioned a study to ascertain the feasibility of such a service.
Confirming the move, Shaji V. Nair, Director, SWTD, says the new service is being planned by assessing the transport options for moving the high and heavy loads, including cargo vehicles along the route. “The plan is to operate the service using a hybrid vessel to be powered by a motor that can source energy from solar panels or through on-grid charging. Consultations are on with various stakeholders on the technical requirements of the service,” he said.
According to him, the 3-km inter-district route is proven in terms of the movement of cargo and people as evident from the demand for the jankar service here. The solar service will offer a cheaper option while the roll on, roll off facility will ensure convenient movement of vehicles on both sides.
Besides the Ro-Ro service, the department is all set to expand its solar passenger service by launching two more boats, one from Vaikom and another on the Perumbalam-Panavalli route. Constructed at a cost of around ₹2.5 crore each, they will have a capacity to carry 75 passengers each and will be powered by 40 kWh lithium-ion batteries.
In addition, another hybrid vessel with a capacity to carry 100 passengers will be rolled out by year end.
Aditya, the first solar boat launched by the SWTD in the Vaikom-Thavanakadavu sector, incurs a rock-bottom energy expense of ₹250 a day, as against the average daily expense of ₹8,000 for diesel-powered ferries.
“That it has helped us save around ₹45 lakh in terms of fuel expenses alone is prompting us to turn into full green services over time,” Mr.Nair said.