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The world’s first solar-powered train

Seventy years ago, two 600 class rail sets were built at the Chullora Railway Workshops in Sydney, using aluminium aircraft technology developed during the Second World War, to produce a high performance yet lightweight train.

Today, this history of innovation continues, thanks to a group of passionate rail enthusiasts from Byron Bay and Lismore-based solar installation company, Nickel Energy. Together, they replaced the heritage train’s traditional diesel engine with electric traction motors powered by solar to create the world’s first solar-powered train. Curved solar panels were fitted to the roof of both carriages, generating up to 6.5 kW of power to charge the train’s lithium-ion battery bank. A 30 kW array on the storage shed roof provides additional back up, while the train’s braking system turns the traction motors into generators to recharge.

Since commencing operations in December 2017, the Byron Bay Railway Company has carried more than 90,000 tourists and locals along a 3 km stretch between North Beach Station in Sunrise Beach and the Byron Beach platform in the town’s centre. The service has so far generated 58,210 kWh more energy than it needs, which is exported to the grid via local green energy supplier Enova. The project earned a Judges’ Honourable Mention in last year’s Clean Energy Council Solar Design and Installation Awards as a pioneering example of low emissions transport.

Among the elements on the Byron Bay Train 1
Image: Byron Bay Solar Train, New South Wales