Raise your hand who hasn't thought of it at least once: what if we covered the tracks with solar panels? Could they become a source of clean energy? The European startup Sun Ways has devised a mechanical device to place very long "ribbons" of removable solar panels along the railway tracks. According to the Swiss startup, this innovation could be applied to at least half of the world's railway lines. And that would be a real breakthrough.
Clean energy on the tracks
The space between railroad tracks is large enough to accommodate these standard size pre-assembled solar panels without obstructing the passage of trains. The pose? It is done with a special train, which installs the panels as it passes. The co-founder of Sun-Ways, Baptiste Danichert, points out that these solar panels "have no visual or environmental impact". It's not little. And it already sets a new standard: there are two competing companies (one is Italian, Greenrail, the other English, Bankset Energy) working on similar solutions, but none of them is currently removable.
Let's do two accounts
The Swiss railway network has a total length of 5.317 kilometers and could theoretically be entirely covered by solar panels. This would be equivalent to approximately 760 football pitches, excluding tunnels and areas with low exposure solar. According to Sun-Ways, the country's rail system could generate 1 terawatt hour (TWh) of solar energy per year, equivalent to approximately 2% of Switzerland's total electricity needs. The energy produced by the solar panels on the tracks would be fed into the electricity grid and used to power homes.
The pilot project will focus on the public railway system in western Switzerland, near the Buttes station, at a cost of approximately 400.000 CHF (approximately 435.000 euros).
Obviously, the goal of the startup it does not stop at the Alps. Sun-Ways intends to expand into other regions of Europe in the coming years, such as Germany, Austria and Italy, as well as the United States and Asia. "There are over a million kilometers of railways in the world," says Danichert.
The train of desires
To be successful in the long term, Sun-Ways will need to collaborate with different organizations and authorities. The involvement of experts in railway engineering, solar technology and environmental conservation will be key to ensuring that the system is safe, efficient and sustainable. If the startup can overcome the challenges and demonstrate the effectiveness of its system, it could have a significant impact on the future of solar energy and railways around the world. Imagine a world where trains not only transport people and goods, but also contribute to the production of clean energy. Sun-Ways has embarked on a really interesting journey: we will follow it closely :)