The Byron Bay Railroad Company has refurbished a 70-year-old stretch of track, 3 kilometers between the town of Byron Bay- a beachside town in the northeast of the state of New South Wales, and the Elements of Byron Bay resort.
The train features a 6.5 kilowatt (kW) custom curved solar array located on the roofs of the carriages which feeds the on-board 77 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery storage system- a capacity same as that in a Tesla Model S, able to provide sufficient storage for 12-15 trips.
A 30 kW solar PV array, a battery storage system and a charging station have been installed at the end of the route to recharge the train when needed.
The restored vintage carriages can carry 100 seated passengers, with additional room for standing passengers, luggage, bikes, and surfboards. The train embarked on its inaugural trip on Saturday and is currently running on a pilot timetable.
The $4 million project was funded by the multi-millionaire businessman Brian Flannery, the owner of the Elements of Byron Bay resort.
The route was abandoned for 13 years due to low passenger level. When it was decided to be put back in service, the original idea was to have a traditional diesel train, but due to resistance from the community, the company explored alternative ideas.
Brian Flannery said: “I think everyone knows that Byron’s very conscious about anything to do with the environment”.
“On a sunny day, we can do about four or five trips only from the rooftop solar system. On cloudy days, we still have the solar-powered charging station to plug it in”.
The train still has one of the original two diesel engines in case of emergency in the event of a fault in the electric drive system, but all the train’s systems are originally planned to be powered by solar energy and battery storage.
The project appears to be the first fully solar-powered train in the world. A similar solar-powered train was launched in India in July, although the solar panels were used only to power passenger comfort systems, such as lights, information displays, and fans.