One might expect to see a thick cloud of black smoke escaping from this vintage locomotive, but no, behind its brick-red aluminum cabin, the Byron Bay Railroad Company’s little train is a jewel of innovation.
Inaugurated in December 2017, it is the first train to operate 100% on solar energy.
Byron Bay, on the east coast of Australia, is a small seaside resort very popular with surfers and travelers. Fifteen times a day, the Byron Bay Railroad Company’s two rehabilitated and covered photovoltaic wagons provide a connection between the city center and a hotel on the beach. A journey of 3 kilometers on which cars are generally stuck in traffic jams.
The initiative is private, owned by former mining baron Brian Flannery, who also owns the luxurious “Resort Elements of Byron”.
To allow his customers to reach the city without having to face traffic jams, he had the idea of rehabilitating an old abandoned railway line and circulating an old, re-touched, diesel “red rattler” train, which were built after the Second World War.
The big challenge was how to make a train weighing 70 tons, transporting up to 100 passengers, run on solar energy.
The roof was covered with photovoltaic panels connected to a set of lithium batteries. But the trick is also in that the system that can recover energy during braking. Solar panels were also installed on the roof of the North Beach station. Thus, at each stop the train can be recharged.
In the end, not only does the train manage to run 100% on solar energy, but it’s surplus energy production can be recirculated into the local network.
According to Jeremy Holmes, director of the project for the BBRC, interviewed for the British show Fully Charged , over one year, 60,000 kWh extra will have been produced, the equivalent of the needs of 13 households of 3 people. A positive energy balance.