The Byron Bay Railroad Company installed photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of an old convoy. A complete recovery project.

The world’s first photovoltaic train has started running on a disused railway line in Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia.

The company, owned by former coal baron Brian Flannery, salvaged an old train from 1949, covering the roof with light and flexible photovoltaic modules, with a total output of 6.5 kW. Very little paper, but enough to move the weight on the structure, putting an additional load on the battery storage system (77 kWh) on board the wagons. Most of the load will be provided by the 30 kWp solar photovoltaic plant built along the route of the track covered by the photovoltaic train. It must be said that it is a very limited journey so far: only 3 km on the old Casino-Murwillimbah line.

The company restored the tracks that now connect North Beach Station to the nearby Elements complex, owned by Flannery and his wife Peggy. A project, in other words, all under the banner of recovery.

In fact, the original idea was to restore the cars by giving them diesel propulsion, but after the local community opposed the fossil solution, the company looked for a more sustainable way to get the project going. Nick Lake, of Nickel Energy and one of the main consultants on the project, explains: “There was some resistance to the idea of ​​a diesel train. So we started to explore what the options were. We calculated the horsepower needed and this helped sizing the electric motors. Once we know the size of the motors[…] we realized that we could have enough solar energy to adapt it to the system. “

However, one of the two original (and still fully functional) diesel engines remained on board and will be used as an emergency reserve in the event of a failure of the electric drive system.

The Australian convoy is not the only one in the world to blow up the sun. India has been testing this solution for some time, renting the first 250 solar trains in June 2017, which will gradually appear on the country’s still unified local roads. Why, then, was the new PV train heralded as a “world first”? Essentially because it is the first to officially exit the experimental phase and, in this case, the solar energy supply covers all the needs of the system: from traction to lighting, including control circuits. and compressors. Of course, the size of the project is very small: there is only room for 100 passengers, including luggage, who can enjoy the short trip (7 minutes trip) at a cost of AU $ 3.

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