Byron Bay celebrates the arrival of the world's first fully solar-powered train
Author: Josh Cole
An obsolete red rattler has become a hot topic as the first of its kind to run completely on solar energy.
Following its first run on December 16 the train has gotten global attention while giving locals and tourists a $3 ride between Byron Beach and North Beach on New South Wales’ north coast.
It took $4 million from a local entrepreneur, Brian Flannery, to get the train running on a disused section of track between Casino and Murwillumbah. It was originally intended to be a diesel service that would be later upgraded to solar but rapid advances in solar technology lead to the decision to go solar prior to its launch.
Powered by curved panels on the train’s roof, the service can mostly coast on the smooth track between the beaches, though it can tap into backup green-energy as well as fire up a diesel engine in case of emergencies.
The train can tap into solar power at its station if in need, and has been able to make 16 trips, or 8 return trips, and only use 25% of its onboard battery power, without any top up charging.
These systems, designed to compensate for bad weather or unexpected circumstances, are a small scale version of the kind being rolled out for electricity grids in South Australia and around the world to ensure that renewable sources can provide reliable energy to consumers and business.
That demand for stability may prevent widespread use of solar power for public transport in the short term but the Byron Bay Railroad Company hope that if the initial route becomes value neutral they’ll be able to expand further along the now out-of-service trackline.
Brian Flannery has also suggested inner-city public transport providers consider using solar to power light rail options such as trams, making for an even more sustainable way to get around.
If you’re a Byron Bay resident or planning on a holiday, find out more about the train and its timetable at the Byron Bay Railroad Company website.
- Sign up for solar power, solar hot water heating or green energy options with your energy provider
- If you’re a business or government employee looking at turning a site solar, visit Planet Ark Power
- Cut back on CO2 emissions by replacing unnecessary car trips with a ride on public transport
- Take a ride on the Byron Bay train if you’re in the area!
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