already know that travelling by train is better for the planet than going by
petroleum-powered car. And with climate change becoming more important in both infrastructure
planning and passenger perceptions, train travel has a renewed relevance. One
of the most exciting areas of potential for rail is solar energy – which
absorbs the sun’s rays as a source of energy for generating electricity or
heating. In 2015, 1.05% of the world’s energy was produced by solar panels. But
the International Energy Agency has recognized that solar energy does have the
capability to be the largest provider of electricity by 2050. The cost of
manufacture and installation of solar panels has fallen consistently and a
number of government are supporting their proliferation with grants subsidies.
Solar power could completely replace fossil fuels for trains, not to mention
powering stations and trackside technologies. So today we look at seven
projects from around the world that are always harnessing the power of the sun.
U.S. State which is so often at the cutting edge of sustainable and renewable
developments, is the home of Solar Trains, a start-up that is proposing
constructing a network of solar canopies over miles of train track, enough
to solar-power electric train systems. The team behind the company see the
potential in solar panels on canopies above trains (see below) rather than on
the trains themselves. They state that one 300 watt solar panel can provide up
to 7,000 miles of a person's train commuting per year.
the stations re-development in 2011, a project was launched with solar
installation firm Solarcentury to fit 4,400 photovoltaic panels on the roof of
the bridge to provide up to half of the energy required to power the central
London station. As reported by BusinessGreen, David Stratham, the managing
director of First Capital Connect said "Electric trains are already the
greenest form of public transport - this roof gives our passengers an even more
sustainable journey. The distinctive roof has also turned our station into an
iconic landmark visible for miles along the River Thames." First Capital
Connect, which runs Blackfriars launched the project to reduce co2 emissions
which were being produced by its train routes into the capital.
in Belgium 2011, the first train high-speed rail line was being generated by
16,000 solar panels fitted along a two mile Belgium tail tunnel. The railway
connects Paris to Amsterdam and the electricity which is produced is able to
power all of Belgium’s trains for one day every year as well as Antwerp
station. At the time, Bart Van Renterghem, UK head of Belgian renewable energy
company Enfinity, which installed the panels said:
"For train operators, it is the perfect way to cut their carbon footprints
because you can use spaces that have no other economic value and the projects
can be delivered within a year because they don't attract the protests that
wind power does.
most recent solar developments this year have been in Chile and India. Chile is
the world’s first metro that will run on this renewable energy source. As
reported by SmartRail World, The power plant Sun Power will
provide its solar energy to the Santiago Metro (pictured right) which will
cover up to 60% of its electrical uses. Eduardo Medina, executive vice
president, global power plants, Sun Power said that "Solar is an ideal
energy source for Chile because of the country's high solar resource
and transparent energy policies. In partnership with Total, Sun Power is
committed to the continued growth of our business in Chile.
India seems to be making the biggest headway in its sustainable efforts. The
country’s railways have ambitious targets for the future. The Delhi Metro Rail
Corporation in New Delhi India has been fitted solar panels on top of the
rooftops of its stations and offices by 2017. They are expected to generate
20MW of solar energy by the end of 2017. According to local press, the DMRC as it stands consumes
around 3% of Delhi’s total energy.
and Indian Trains
this year, India’s first solar panel-fitted train began commencing trials,
powered by rooftop solar panels. In 2015, Northern Railways had fitted one
coach of the Rewari-Sitapur broad gauge passenger train with solar panels.
However, this is the first DEMU (Diesel Electric Multiple Unit) train, in which
all coaches have solar panels, reports the Financial
trials are still ongoing says Tarun Jain, the Chief Public Relations Officer of
North Western Railways. “We will begin trials of this solar-panel fitted train
shortly. We are awaiting some final clearances. After intensive trials, we will
be able to gauge the performance of the solar panels. Only then any decision on
scaling up the scope of the solar panels can be taken,”
7. Valley Metro, Arizona
month, Valley Metro revealed their plans to install solar panels on their
networks to power their transit facilities in Tempe, Arizona (pictured left).
The 537kW solar project aims to power 33% of its power needs. 1,704 panels will
be fitted on top of bus ports to increase the city’s renewable energy use from
6.5%-8% and save the company more than $411,000 in utility costs over 20 years.
Temple Mayor and Valley Metro RPTA Board Member Mark Mitchell said that it “brings together two
of the city’s main energy conservation and sustainability efforts, combining a
public transit facility with solar energy production. The EVBOM solar installation
furthers Tempe’s ongoing commitment to the environment, reducing pollution with
clean energy use while saving money.” The solar panels will produce 831,445 kWh
of energy in the first year, reducing carbon emissions by more than 580 metric
tons – equivalent to taking 123 vehicles off the road each year. The project is
expected to be finished by the end of this month.
Greenrail is an Italian startup founded
in 2012 as a result of the company’s CEO’s innovative idea of
eco-sustainable, innovative railway sleepers, which would change the rail
industry in several ways: not only improve the railway lines’ quality by reducing
noise, vibration and maintenance cost, but also help with waste management and
harvest energy, thanks to the integrated systems. Greenrail sleepers consist of
a reinforced concrete inner core and an outer shell obtained from a blend of
rubber from End of Life Tyres (ELT) and recycled plastic. Every kilometer of a
railway line equipped with Greenrail sleepers, allows to reuse 35 tons of these
The company, thanks to winning the funding from the European Commission’s
Horizon 2020 SME Instrument Phase 2 program (“Small business innovation
research for Transport and Smart Cities Mobility), is currently in the phase of
research and development of other kinds of Greenrail sleepers that would be
endowed with various systems. One of them is Greenrail Solar: equipped with a
photovoltaic module, it would transfer every kilometer of a railway line into a
photovoltaic field, able to produce up to 150 kWh of solar energy, which could
be used to provide electricity for the stations and for the electrical grids.
Another is Greenrail Link box: Greenrail Solar sleeper with systems both for
transmission of data and telecommunication, which would be powered by the solar
energy harvested by the sleeper's photovoltaic modules.
a variety of sectors and geographies looking at solar energy, the future looks
bright for its continued involvement in rail and metro.