Currently, the zone uses power supplied by Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, Kerala State Electricity Board and Transmission Corporation of Andhra Pradesh.
Energy consumption is growing as the number of trains being operated has gone up. "We also plan to start the formalities to make the most of carbon credits after the wind turbines are in place," said Southern Railway chief electrical engineer M C Murali.
Four firms that have lands in these regions with wind power potential have bid for tenders to install wind turbines that are expected to generate 12 billion units of power. Tenders will be awarded before March.
The wind power generated will be linked to the grid and will help Southern Railway save Rs 12 crore on its power bills.
The Centre for Wind Energy Technology (CWET), an R&D institute under ministry of new and renewable energy, is studying the wind potential of the locations submitted by the firms who have bid for the project.
The centre has complete data on the wind potential of micro sites across the country. According to CWET, Tamil Nadu has the most number of sites where wind power density is greater than 200 watt per square metre. These 45 sites are located close to the western ghats.
Railways have decided to enter into power generation because of an increase in energy consumption and rise in power charges levied by state electricity boards.
Power used for traction (operating trains) has increased after railways electrified most of its routes. The tariff charged by state-run electricity boards or corporations have also increased.
The tariff may be lesser than what is charged for commercial use but it is not subsidised. So railways wants to reduce the cost by generating power and supplying it back to the grid. The ministry is planning to set up a thermal power plant in Bihar in association with National Thermal Power Corporation.
Statistics show that power consumed by the Southern Railway to operate trains has increased by over 3.4 % this year when compared to previous year, while charges paid to state governments have increased by 7.79 % from 2009-10 to 2010-11 (till August).