World's first solar-powered train mixes the old and the new along Australian coast
Those visiting the northern New South Wales coastline in Australia will have the chance to ride on new sustainably powered transport service. The Byron Bay Railroad Company is setting the wheels in motion for what it describes as the world's first solar-powered train, whose roots can be traced back to World War II.
The two railcars used in the innovative rail service were originally constructed in 1949 to transport the massive influx of European immigrants arriving in the wake of WWII around the state of New South Wales. Handily, this meant that the train bodies were created with the same aluminum fuselage construction used for aircraft bombers, making them lighter than what we today consider "light rail".
Those two cars sat unused in a yard from the mid-90s until 2013, when the Byron Bay Rail Company took on the task of restoring the heritage trains. The original plan was to power them with diesel, but the company says that the rapid, recent advances in solar technologies made going green a possibility. We've seen solar help to power trains in other countries but, according to the company, this is the first instance of a train powered entirely by the Sun.
The train rooftops have been fitted with custom-built curved solar panels to charge the onboard batteries, which also draw on a regenerative braking system said to recapture around 25 percent of energy the train uses to accelerate. The batteries can also be charged at the platform thanks to a large rooftop solar array on the storage shed. Failing that, it can draw power from the grid, which the company says is sourced from a local green energy provider.
One diesel engine has been left onboard as a backup (and also provide weight and balance), but a pair of AC traction motors provide 220 kW and power the train's relatively flat journey along 3 km (1.86 mi) of repaired track.
With enough capacity for 100 seated passengers, the train shuttles passengers between two newly constructed stations connecting the CBD of coastal town Byron Bay with a nearby arts precinct and luxury resort. Each charge of the batteries is said to provide enough juice for 12 to 15 runs. The train will be making hourly trips, with the service set to expand in January 2018.
Source: Byron Bay Rail Company