Environment

Infrabel and Enfinity announce completion of 16,000-panel solar train tunnel

Infrabel and Enfinity announce...
About 4,000 trains per year - or the equivalent of a full day's worth of Belgian rail traffic - will be able to run entirely on solar power generated by the installation
About 4,000 trains per year - or the equivalent of a full day's worth of Belgian rail traffic - will be able to run entirely on solar power generated by the installation
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The Solar Tunnel is part of Belgium's HSL4 high-speed rail line that runs from Antwerp to Amsterdam
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The Solar Tunnel is part of Belgium's HSL4 high-speed rail line that runs from Antwerp to Amsterdam
About 4,000 trains per year - or the equivalent of a full day's worth of Belgian rail traffic - will be able to run entirely on solar power generated by the installation
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About 4,000 trains per year - or the equivalent of a full day's worth of Belgian rail traffic - will be able to run entirely on solar power generated by the installation
16,000 solar panels have been installed on the roof of a two mile long rail tunnel and will generate an estimated 3.3 MWh of electricity per year
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16,000 solar panels have been installed on the roof of a two mile long rail tunnel and will generate an estimated 3.3 MWh of electricity per year
The Solar Tunnel runs parallel to the busy E19 highway
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The Solar Tunnel runs parallel to the busy E19 highway
Engineers installing the 16,000 solar panels on the roof of the HLS4 rail tunnel in Antwerp, Belgium
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Engineers installing the 16,000 solar panels on the roof of the HLS4 rail tunnel in Antwerp, Belgium
Map showing the location of the HSL4 rail line
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Map showing the location of the HSL4 rail line
The panels have been installed using a special ballast tile structure which negates the need for rooftop perforations
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The panels have been installed using a special ballast tile structure which negates the need for rooftop perforations

The roof of a two mile stretch of tunnel over Belgium's high speed rail line has been fitted out with 16,000 solar panels to provide power for trains running through Antwerp Central Station and the surrounding railway infrastructure. Solar solution provider Enfinity says that about 4,000 trains per year - or the equivalent of a full day's worth of Belgian rail traffic - will be able to run entirely on solar power generated by the installation.

Engineers began covering the 50,000 square meter (164,000 sq ft) surface area of the roof of Belgium's HSL4 high-speed rail tunnel with monocrystalline solar panels (rated at 245 Wp per panel) in the summer of last year. The panels have been installed using a special ballast tile structure which negates the need for rooftop perforations. Enfinity says that the installation has just started generating the estimated 3.3 GWh* of electricity per year - equivalent to the average annual electricity consumption of nearly 1,000 homes.

16,000 solar panels have been installed on the roof of a two mile long rail tunnel and will generate an estimated 3.3 MWh of electricity per year
16,000 solar panels have been installed on the roof of a two mile long rail tunnel and will generate an estimated 3.3 MWh of electricity per year

The municipalities of Brasschaat and Schoten, intermunicipal financing companies FINEA and IKA, and solar construction company Solar Power Systems joined Enfinity and Belgian rail operator Infrabel for the Solar Tunnel project, which is said to be the first time railway infrastructure has been used to generate green energy. The cost of the project was around US$20 million.

The solar energy will be used in Antwerp's North-South junction to meet the electricity needs of the signaling, lighting, heating of railway stations, and also by the trains using the Belgian rail network.

In related news, the UK's Network Rail recently announced that the new Blackfriars Station, that is to span the River Thames, will have half of its electricity needs met by solar panels installed on the roof.

*Chloé Van Driessche from Enfinity's Belgian headquarters has confirmed that the amount generated annually is 3.3 GWh, not 3.3 MWh as previously stated by the company's U.S. office.

12 comments
Jim Fiske
3.3 MWh per year is well under the energy consumption of ONE home, not 1000.
Neon
@ Jim The accepted average for one home\'s energy consumption is 8,900 kWh/year (data from US Energy Information Agency) The solar tunnel according to the Straits times News website (posted 2 days before this one) energy output is 3,300 MWh or 3,300,000 kWh. Therefore it would power aprox 400 homes, I suspect Enfinity has used \"favourable\" data to provide a 1,000 Wow number, and the Author of this article has made a copy/paste error missing some zeros, the internet is becomes Chinese whispers because of one sloppy Author, I\'ve seen a few websites quote this article already.
Burt
@Neon The average home\'s energy in belgium is only about 3500KWh/year, so the favourable data is actually real data they used. And the 3500 is already counted as a relatively high usage. A small user only uses about 600KWH according to statistics.
Dimitar Haralampiev
I believe that that you shouldn\'t apply US statistics for an European country. I can\'t cite a source but Europe\'s Energy Portal assumes an annual household consumption of 3500kWh which would make the \"1000 households\" a plausible statement albeit still rounded up.
Dirk
In Belgium the average annual electricityconsumption of one home is arround 3600kWh. (heating not included, this is a mix of natural gas or oil) So the 1000 homes figure is a littlebit optimistic but reasonable. I personally use 6500kWh each jear (heating included, alle electric), it\'s all about making choises and using the right technology for each task. On the other side we do have a less intelligent system to distribute the cost of this installation. Also check Lithium Titanaat - Lithium Iron Phosfate (LTO-LFP) batteries, they found a solution at the TUM in Münich.
Jason Myers
Two things: 1. Jim Fiske... Same Jim Fikse as in Fiske racing wheels? If so, Hi! 2. \'One Days\' worth of train travel? Is that really worth the investment of $20m USD? I think it will take a few decades past those solar cell\'s lifetime to repay that...?
Christopher Littlefair
@Neon - the source link to the company website (Enfinity) quotes 3.3 MWh, not the author of this article: http://www.enfinitycorp.com/media-center/news-releases/europes-first-green-train
Neon
Enfinity corporation is a US based Company, what\'s more NO ONE gave a source regarding household energy consumption in Belgium according to (International Energy Agency (IEA Statistics © OECD/IEA, http://www.iea.org/stats/index.asp), Energy Statistics and Balances of Non-OECD Countries and Energy Statistics of OECD Countries.) Electricity consumption per capita in Beglium is 8,523 kWh source: http://www.google.com/publicdata?ds=wb-wdi&met_y=eg_use_elec_kh_pc&idim=country:BEL&dl=en&hl=en&q=electricity consumption in belgium So saying electricity consumption at 8,900kWh per household is more than fair. @Christopher - it could be a typo on their site http://www.therecycletimes.com/2011/06/solar-tunnel-project-connects-paris-and-amsterdam-through-solar-powered-euro-trains/ http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-20070013-54/high-speed-euro-train-system-gets-solar-power/ http://www.rail.co/2011/06/07/high-speed-rail-tunnel-in-belgium-gets-16000-solar-panels/ I could find more.... 3.3MWh/year for a $20Mil solar project is a con, 3,300MWh/year is more reasonable, I found a suppler selling 245Wp panels for $404 they were near identical to the panels in the photos, and lets say we use $10mil for the solar panels and Belgium gets on average 4.3hrs of sun per day, we purchase 25,000 panels rated at 245Wp, for arguments sake the panels only output under half at 120W 25,000*120= 3,000,000 Wp 3,000,000*4.3 = 12,900,000 Wh/day 12,900,000*365.3(days)= 4712.37*10^6 Wh/year or 4,712 MWh/year 1 Megawatt = 1*10^6 Watts ................................................................................................... source for the supplier: http://www.alibaba.com/product-gs/441089543/245wp_solar_panel.html
Captain Obvious
We use 4500 kWHr a year, but we\'re Flemish-American, not Belgian. The key is not using electricity just to heat up things. Very inefficient.
Facebook User
@ jason mayers The reason it is build in the Flemish part is because they over subsidize this stupidity for every megawatt they get 350 Eur * 3300 = being 1.617000 dollar a year. Together with the investment deduction and the notary deduction it is paid back to them in 5 to 6 years. and makes them a revenue of 15 to 20 % a year on investment. Of course the Flemish consumer pays the bill again.