Even though it only runs a short distance, the first (functioning!) solar train in Australia is already the start of a revolution. With a supply of 100 seats, it carries tourists to the amazing seaside location of Byron Bay, in New South Wales, Australia. The train costed approximately 4 million dollars and it moves thanks to the enegy derived from its solar panels, which make it a fully green vehicle…

How was this solar-powered train born?

The solar-powered train was created using an old train convoy which was abandoned in the late 1940s. Its surface was covered with non-excessively powerful solar panels: they produce 6,5 kW, with which it’s not possible to go further than 3 km in ten minutes.

Byron Bay, Australia, solar-powered train, photo by Delphine Ducaruge via Unsplash
Byron Bay, Australia, photo by Delphine Ducaruge via Unsplash

We are on the 132 km long railway Casino-Murwilumbah, which has been a mostly disused line for almost 10 years and thanks to these 3 km has found a new reason to live and be functioning in a completely sustainable way. Installed on the old line there is also a 30kWp solar implant for days that are particularly cloudy. And what if it was a particularly cloudy period? The batteries can be charged by using clean energy from Enova Energy. Furthermore, the braking system regains 25% of the energy each time the brakes are used!

And just like that, on the 16th of December 2017, the train was inaugurated and officially opened to the public as a Byron Bay Railroad Company’s service and it represents a step forward towards sustainable mobility on railways. Just imagine you’re travelling on an ancient train, with a vintage atmosphere, without any noises coming from polluting engines, fully conscious of having zero impact on the environmment and at the same time enjoying a breath-taking view. You can do it in Australia, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do it in other places of the world as well in just a little time. Meanwhile, the first step has been completed.

A sustainable future: what’s in store for us?

Photo by Josh Nezon via Unsplash
Photo by Josh Nezon via Unsplash

Despite being just a small step towards fully sustainable train services, the Australian solar-powered train is not the only possibility in the world which makes us think about a greener future: for example, in Holland, from January 2017, the whole railway system is powered by wind energy from the turbines; in India on the other hand, some trains already have some small solar panels to make some services work, such as lights and air conditioning; and finally, in some countries like the UK, awareness and curiosity towards this mobility is increasing. Not only green cars are developing, but also green trains.

La strada da percorrere è lunga ma i primi tre chilometri sono già stati guadagnati con successo. Con impegno e consapevolezza possono essere raggiunti obbiettivi che un tempo sarebbero apparsi impossibili. Chi lo avrebbe mai detto che un giorno avremmo potuto viaggiare su un treno ad energia solare? Eppure oggi un’altra gemma di sostenibilità si muove anche su rotaia, aprendo centinaia di porte ad altre possibilità.

There is still a long way to go, but the first three kilometers have definitely been a great success. With some effort and self-consciousness we can reach objectives which once seemed impossible. Who would have thought that one day we could have traveled on a solar-powered train? And yet, here we are today, a new gem of sustainability is born and it travels on rails, opening a hundred new doors and possibilities.

Cover photo by Tiago Gerken via Unsplash

See also:

Top 10 travels by train in Europe

The new energy in Europe is green!

National Day of forgotten railways – Ecological roads through Italy

Author: Margherita Potrich

Born in Rovereto, Margherita studies Modern Languages for tourism and business mediation at the University of Trento – Literature and Philosophy Department. The knowledge and use of English in a work environment is her main objective; thanks to Ecobnb she had the chance to combine languages with the emerging topic of sustainable tourism.
More posts by Margherita Potrich →

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