Take the solar train to the beach
What with all of the distressing news coming from Australia in recent times, we think it is important to keep in mind that there are also very hopeful ideas out there:
The Byron Bay Railroad Company has been operating the solar train since December 2017. The rolling stock is a lovingly restored two-car passenger train from 1949. Its roof now features 6.5 kilowatts of flexible solar panels. Originally it was powered by two diesel engines. One was removed and replaced by a battery with a capacity of 77 kilowatt hours and the associated electronics. The second diesel engine remains on board for emergencies. Two 220-kilowatt electric motors now provide the propulsion. When braking, up to 25 per cent of the energy can be recovered and fed back into the battery.
The train needs around five kilowatt hours of electricity for a return trip on the approximately 3.5-kilometer route between Byron Bay station and North Beach. The train commutes nine times each day between its two stations, so one battery charge is enough for practically the entire day.
Byron Bay provides ideal conditions
The solar power for the railway is partly generated on the roofs of the two carriages of the train itself. The majority, however, comes from a 30 kilowatt solar system on the roof of one of the stations. Excess electricity is fed into the public grid. In the first full year of operation, 2018, that amounted to 60,000 kilowatt hours. The train's batteries are charged by two conventional three-phase 22 kilowatt electric car chargers.
The Solar Train is still a novelty, but electric busses are becoming more common.
Australia is of course blessed as far as sunshine is concerned. And in other respects, the conditions for the Byron Bay Solar Train could hardly be better: The route is almost flat and dead straight. There is only one stop in each direction, so that the train can at first gather speed and then, while smoothly braking, convert the kinetic energy from its 70 tons back into electricity. (mfo)