High-speed rail line installation powers first solar train

The €15.7 million project, known as the Solar Tunnel, used 16,000 Jinko solar modules and took almost nine months to complete. Enfinity installed the panels and partnered Belgium rail infrastructure manager Infrabel on the project, along with local inter-municipal financing companies.

The surface area of the five-year-old tunnel, which is in place for a section of the rail line that passes through an ancient forest and alongside a motorway, is 50,000 square meters: approximately the size of eight football (soccer) pitches. Speaking to pv magazine, Enfinity’s Jurgen Van Damme said that there were a number of challenges in working on this unique project.

The power for use on the Infrabel facilities and lines had to be fed to a point some distance away from the solar tunnel. "It took two or three months [after the installation of panels was complete] to finalize the project, we had to install cables of three to four kilometers so it took a lot of work," said Van Damme.

The electricity produced by the installation will be used to power railway infrastructure, such as signals, lighting and the heating of stations. It will also power the trains using the Belgian rail network and the Antwerp central station.

The project was funded in partnership between Enfinity, Infrabel and the local bodies and income for the power will be generated under the Belgium government’s feed-in tariff scheme. Called the Green Energy Certificate scheme, for each megawatt hour produced by the Solar Tunnel, the partnership behind the project will receive 350 Euros, with a lifetime of 20 years. "We would not have succeeded in the construction of this scheme without this scheme," surmised Van Damme.

Enfinity are believed to be working on similar projects elsewhere, but it is too early to disclose any details about them.