The world’s first solar power train (Australian Byron Bay Railroad Company) has gone on its inaugural run, all warmly welcoming the local community and visitors to ride. The solar train was officially launched on 16 December 2017. A limited service is now operating until the full service commences during January 2018.
Byron Bay, New South Wales, is located in eastern Australia and is known as a surfer and backpacker’s paradise with a population of around 5,000. The new train service covers 1.9 miles (3 km) between the city’s center and its North Beach district. It’s part of a longer 82 mile (132 km) line connecting Australia’s Northern Rivers region north of the capital Sydney.
The fully solar-powered train holds 100 seated passengers, with room for others to stand, and completes one round-trip journey every hour.
0 – 5 years free
6 – 13 years $2
14+ years $3
For a one-way journey.
Route – North Beach – Byron Beach
Time – Byron Beach platform at 8:00am with the last train leaving the Byron Beach platform at 10:00pm.
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.
Byron Bay Railroad Company said they originally intended to offer a diesel train service before switching to solar, but the “accelerated development of technology in this area” made it technically feasible to create the solar train. One of two original diesel engines is still part of the train as a backup and for weight and balance.
How Solar Train System Works?
The train was retrofit from a classic passenger train which used to have two diesel engines. One engine was replaced by electric motors and batteries, and the other engine was kept for balance and as an emergency backup. It can and will run completely on solar power, even during times of extended cloud cover, but one diesel engine was kept around just in case there’s a failure.
It has a 77kWh battery which is good for a full day’s worth of trips back and forth, and will be charged both by panels on the roof of the train and a 30kW solar array at the station.
The custom designed curved solar panels on the roof of the train combined with the solar array on the storage shed roof generate sufficient energy to power the train. The regenerative (“regen”) braking system recovers around 25% of the spent energy each time the brakes are applied.
In the case of prolonged lack of sunshine the on-board batteries can be charged from the grid supply using 100% green energy from local community based energy retailer Enova Energy. Like a bank, BBRC’s arrays of solar panels will deposit energy and then withdraw when required.
Trains, on the other hand, travel on a fixed route and can be quickly recharged at each stop using electricity generated by static solar panels. For that reason, they have been the target of several renewable energy projects.
Short Distance, Big Implications
The Byron Bay train’s short route makes it more of a proof of concept than a fully realized transportation revolution, but on a local level, it can deliver real benefits by decreasing traffic and getting the public interested in clean energy. One small step for this humble new train means a big step forward for the sector by proving that transport systems can be fully powered by the Sun.