We’ve had solar powered planes and solar powered boats, now it’s the time for rail travel, with the launch of Europe’s first solar-powered train.
International trains on the high-speed route between Paris and Amsterdam are the first in Europe to use solar power to help run them after a huge array of photovoltaic solar panels was installed on top of a 2-mile-long tunnel on the line.
The energy generated feed into the line’s infrastructure, powering signals, lighting and in-train power points, and will even help power Antwerp station. So if you’re travelling to Amsterdam on a train to Europe from London or on the first stage of your InterRail trip you could be powered by the sun.
The tunnel crosses Antwerp, in northern Belgium, and features 16,000 solar photovoltaic panels producing 3,300 megawatts per hour of electricity. That’s enough to power some 1,000 families. The panels, which cost €15.6 million to install, are enough to cover eight football pitches and as well as being a green, clean source of energy, will also keep down costs on the railway.
The first ‘solar train’ left Antwerp headed for the Netherlands on Monday 6 June, and connected with the solar power feed for a stretch of around 8 miles. Solar energy company Enfinity, which developed the project, now wants to install more solar train power in Europe and across America.
It’s clear that with big engineering projects and transport infrastructure now joining the solar revolution, this green, free power source will go from strength to strength. Indeed, in the UK, London’s new Blackfriars Station, opening in 2012, will be home to the country’s biggest solar panel array, enough to provide half of the station’s energy.
Further developments in solar power from high profile projects like the PlanetSolar solar powered round-the-world boat and the Solar Impulse solar plane are also helping drip down into improvements in domestic solar power provision. Useful smaller home uses for solar power, like solar panel kits, are also becoming more efficient.