How Railroad Tracks Are Now Being Used To Create Solar Energy

A start-up company named Sun Ways is unveiling its latest alternative energy production idea, which incorporates using railroad tracks to produce solar energy.

By Brian Scheid | Updated

railroad tracks; solar energy

 Traditional energy sources rely primarily on burning fossil fuels, which have proven to liter our atmosphere with pollutants, slowly destroying our planet. In the race for companies to discover viable solutions that can generate alternative energy production to help humanity move away from our traditional energy sources, companies are finding unique ways to make this happen. A start-up company named Sun Ways is unveiling its latest alternative energy production idea, which incorporates using railroad tracks to produce solar energy.

In the solar energy production industry, companies are constantly looking for places with the flat ground like canals, pastures, or warehouses to outfit those areas with solar panels to collect the sun’s energy and convert it into usable energy for public or private consumption. Sun Ways’ idea is based on railroad tracks already in use worldwide for rail transportation. These tracks span millions of miles of terrain on every inhabitable continent.

Sun Ways are anxiously awaiting to begin its quest to start outfitting railroad tracks with solar energy panels in Switzerland. The company’s concept is to install solar panels in the space between the railroad tracks so that while a train is not passing over them, they collect the sun’s powerful natural energy. According to the Good News Network, “Sun-Ways is waiting for a sign-off from the Federal Office of Transport to install their panels between the tracks near Buttes Station in the west of the country.”

Sun Ways cofounder Baptiste Danichert believes they could equip approximately 50 percent of the world’s railroad tracks with solar panels. The Swiss national railway has over 2,000 miles of tracks laid within its system, and Sun Ways estimate that its project can generate beyond one terawatt hour of energy if approved to place its panels on those tracks. Over one terawatt hour of power would equal two percent of the gross annual energy consumption. 

Sun Ways have developed an easy-to-use delivery system for installing its solar panels by utilizing a specially outfitted train car that drives over a section of railroad tracks. The train car rolls out the solar panels from underneath its carriage and locks them in place on the tracks as it drives over them and is described by them as it looks like they are rolling out a carpet. The process does not require an extensive labor force to install the panels, which makes the process rather inexpensive in terms of human capital.

This concept sounds like an incredible idea; however, Sun Ways are facing some pushback and questions about the ability to upkeep and maintain the functioning of the panels. One of the concerns that are being voiced is about whether the reflection of the sun off the panels will distract the conductors or drivers on nearby roadways. Another concern is regarding areas that receive snowfall that would cover the panels rendering them useless for large portions of the year.

Opponents also bring up the ordinary everyday wear and tear due to dust, debris, and damage from the vibrations of the trains driving over the top of them. Sun Ways has responded to that criticism by mentioning that they took those concerns into account with the materials they utilize to build the solar panels and their durability. They also added that for general upkeep, they could outfit trains with brushes on their undercarriage to remove dust and small debris from the panels as they passed over them on their typical day travels.