Custom curved solar panels on the roof of the train send power to a set of batteries that replace a diesel engine. As the train brakes, it generates more electricity. At a train station, the train can be plugged in to pull more power from solar panels its roof.  

World's first solar train will begin service soon in Australia
Technology / Solar Technology
December 15, 2017

The train, which features restored vintage carriages with flexible solar panels on their roofs, will travel between its solar-charging train station and a resort property in Byron Bay.

The Byron Bay Railroad Company is putting a disused track to work again with a restored "derelict heritage train" that has been converted to be 100% solar powered. The not-for-profit company refurbished a 3-kilometer stretch of tracks, as well as a bridge, between the town of Byron Bay, where a 30kW solar array, battery storage system, and charging station has also been installed, and the nearby Elements of Byron Bay resort.

The solar train features a 6.5kW solar array comprised of flexible solar panels on the roofs of the carriages, which can together carry up to 100 passengers at a time. The rooftop solar array will feed into the onboard 77kWh battery, which also gets partially charged between trips by the station's solar array. According to RenewEconomy, the battery is about the same capacity as that in a Tesla Model S, but the solar train only requires about 4kWh to travel each leg of the trip, so there is plenty of juice for it to make "12-15 runs off a single charge," and the regenerative braking feature will allow the train to recoup "around 25% of the spent energy each time the brakes are applied."

The train was originally intended to be put into service as a diesel unit, but after "a fair bit of community resistance" to the idea of having a diesel train running there, the company explored the option of using an electric drive system coupled with a solar charging station, and found it to be a feasible alternative. The original carriages, which were built in 1949 at Chullora Railway Workshops in Sydney using lightweight aluminum aircraft technology (the facility was used from 1942-1945 to build bombers) were restored by Lithgow Railway Workshop.

All of the train's systems, including traction power, lighting, control circuits, and air compressors, are powered by solar (via the battery), which the company believes qualifies it "as a world first." The Byron Bay solar train also includes one of the original two diesel engines as an emergency backup in the event of a fault in the electric drive system. More information about the service, which is set to begin December 16th, is available at the website.

Byron Bay Railroad signals solar train shuttle service open
December 20, 2017 by Nancy Owano, Tech Xplore

A solar train has been launched in Byron Bay, Australia. The announcement was sent out by the Byron Bay Railroad Company. 

"The solar train was officially launched on 16 December 2017. A limited service is now operating until the full service commences during January 2018. Thank you to all of the people from near and far who have helped us to bring this project to life."

Derek Markham in TreeHugger had some details: The company refurbished a 3-kilometer stretch of tracks, as well as a bridge, between the town of Byron Bay, where a 30kW solar array, battery storage system and charging station has also been installed.

There are light, flexible solar panels, said RenewEconomy, which wrote about the train back in October, adding that "the train will run entirely on solar power." Solar panels on its roof help support that; operating on energy from the sun, a diesel engine will be used solely as a back-up, said the railroad company site. 

How it works: Solar charged batteries are designed to operate all systems including traction power, lighting, control circuits and air compressors. 

Curved solar panels on the roof of the train with the solar array on the storage shed roof generate energy to power the train. The regenerative braking system recovers around 25% of the spent energy each time the brakes are applied, said the Byron Bay Railroad Company site.

"Like a bank, BBRC's arrays of solar panels will deposit energy and then withdraw when required."

The Byron Bay solar train includes the diesel engine as an emergency backup in the event of a fault in the drive system, said TreeHugger.

The train uses eArche solar panels and a large solar battery bank. 

RenewEconomy's Giles Parkinson in October reported on the train and called the amount of battery storage "considerable."

This is a two carriage train, featuring 1960s vintage country commuter cars, said Parkinson. These are described as "restored vintage" carriages and now with flexible solar panels on their roofs.

It is a return-shuttle service for a 3-kilometer jaunt (1.86 miles). "There is capacity for 100 seated passengers, additional standing passengers, seating for people with a disability and luggage room for bikes, prams and surfboards," said the train company.

The run is structured as an hourly service initially. "As the service is not subsidised by Government (all other public transport receives subsidies) the timetable will be reviewed from time to time in line with passenger demand and operating costs." 

Actually, the decision to go with a solar powered train is rooted in a need to decide on a solution in general about transport between a beach precinct and township. 

"The solar conversion concept came later, after the train was already planned." The community did not want a big diesel engine chugging through the township, said Parkinson. 

As for the future, a crosshead in the Monday Futurism story about the train says it all: "Short distance, big implications." While this is no cross-country express, it could send a message that solar trains make sense in similar situations.

The trains are on fixed routes and can be quickly recharged at each stop using electricity generated by static solar panels.

Lou Del Bello, Futurism: "The Byron Bay train's short route makes it more of a proof of concept than a fully realized transportation revolution," but Del Bello also added that "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."

The train company's site said that "From the outset Byron Bay Railroad Company has supported an extended train service along this branch line and is hopeful that this project will be a catalyst for possible future service extensions. BBRC's focus, however, is to make this 3km section of line operational and cost neutral."

This Is The World’s First Fully Solar Train
In Australia, passengers travel to the coast using renewable-powered transit.

Fast Company 12.20.17
By Adele Peters

The Australian beach town of Byron Bay has a traffic problem–especially during holidays, when tourists cause gridlock on local streets. Until recently, there were few options for public transit. But the town now has a second option for traveling one common route: The world’s first fully solar-powered train, running on a restored train line that was out of use for more than a decade.

Converting the train to solar–using a vintage vehicle built shortly after World War II–was a challenge. “We were aware that it had not been done before and wanted to push the boundaries,” says Jeremy Holmes, development director of the nonprofit Byron Bay Railroad Company, which runs the train. The route, which travels between the central business district and the northern part of the town, had advantages: At a little less than two miles long, it’s short, and the track is flat and almost perfectly straight between the stations, requiring less power than other routes might. The vintage train, which was built with aluminum fuselage in a factory that made planes during World War II, is also lightweight.

Custom curved solar panels on the roof of the train send power to a set of batteries that replace one diesel engine; the other engine is still in place and can provide backup power in an emergency. As the train brakes, it generates more electricity, like a hybrid car. At a train station, the train can be plugged in to pull more power from solar panels on the roof. If there’s a long period without sun–somewhat unlikely in this part of the world–the train can also plug in to get renewable energy from the local grid.

“The large solar array on the platform roof coupled with the custom curved solar panels on the train roof produce more solar energy per day than is required to operate an hourly return service,” says Holmes. With one full charge, the train can make 12 to 15 trips.

Volunteers fully restored the train to its vintage condition to attract more riders–which should take more cars off city streets. The train fits 100 seated passengers, with room for more to stand, and also has a luggage room for bikes and surfboards. A ride costs a little more than $2 (three Aussie dollars).

The nonprofit thinks it’s a model that could be replicated elsewhere. “Our service has had no government support or funding at all, but for this to be replicated or improved upon, the key is for government to work with private enterprise on small custom initiatives,” Holmes says. “Our service provides an example of how a niche operation, with the involvement of some very clever engineers, can harness the sun’s energy for sustainable transport solutions.”

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