No solar train on the horizon

In the Echo of March 9, Jeremy Holmes, Elements’ project manager, is reported as saying that the proposed train will be converted to ‘solar powered electric operation.’ This is a change from the term previously used by Elements and the one announced on Channel Ten news last year about a solar train for Byron Bay, which many people believe is coming.

So far, there are no solar trains on planet Earth!

As far as I can tell, Elements has given no information regarding details or dates of conversion.

I contacted an engineer at a train solar conversion factory in India; and the manager at the Lithgow Mining Museum where the diesel engine was refurbished. The solar power for Indian trains is for running air conditioners and lighting – not the engine. In Lithgow the manager said it could be done for half a million dollars.

Panels on top of a train are insufficient for moving it. Solar farms are needed to supply power for electric trams and trains.

I think a train is a great idea. Mr Holmes, let’s have a rubber-tyred, solar-powered train that fits Byron’s zero emissions goals, before it starts operating in Byron Bay.

Lee Cass, Byron Bay


6 responses to “No solar train on the horizon”

  1. Angie says:

    Here is some more info about those solar train in India. And yes solar panels on the roof do power the internal electric needs like the lights, but that also reduces the use of deisel.
    I don’t think anyone ever said that the train was going to run entirely on solar. It is solar-hybrid, and yes there are a few solar-powered trains around the world. some are electric and have solar panels on the roof of tunnels, and some have solar panels on the roof. It can be done.

  2. Len Heggarty says:

    So Lee, you have provided half the answer in what you write.
    A Solar train is feasible.
    “The solar power for Indian trains is for running air conditioners and lighting”.
    If Solar power can run air conditioners and lighting, they can also run generators that will produce electricity and double the output of electricity from solar.
    Is that not the way the Toyota Prius Hybrid vehicle works?
    The petrol engine helps the electric motor produce power and the electric motor helps the petrol engine produce power and you can switch one off and the other on. You have a hybrid train and that takes electricity use off the State electricity grid.

  3. Sunny says:

    Len, The power to weight ratio of a Prius cannot be compared to a 56,000kg, (53 ton) old train. You would need another carriage full of very expensive lithium ion batteries to power a generator in oder to get once down the 3km stretch of track.
    If it’s as easy as you explain, then why don’t they just do it upfront? The truth is they have no intent and now talk of ‘ascertaining viability” which is NOT what the community was sold.

    Angie, there is only one prototype solar train and it’s in the UK. It gets 12km range from a charge and takes 2 hours to recharge – It’s also an extremely expensive conversion on a modern (much lighter weight) train. The article you referenced is about aircon and lights not drivetrain. The elements train has no aircon.

  4. Damon Mitchell says:

    Clearly Elements cannot be trusted and really have no idea what they are doing. First they said the train would be opening by December 2015, then Feb 2016, then April and now according to TOOT’s on FB page June! The ‘solar train’ idea is just another dodgy sales pitch to try and push their unpopular antiquated resort shuttle service. If they were serious about a renewable energy train then they would install a much more modern solution such as an electric tram system that could be powered from multiple renewable energy sources such as wind and solar and be linked to the grid for more traditional sources when the renewables were unavailable.

    A much more realistic and manageable eco-solution would have been to provide their guests with electric bikes and trikes that can be quickly recharged from a solar setup at the resort. Converting the 3km to a rail trail and having zero emission bikes zipping along would also be less divisive for the community.

    • I agree. Based on their record, Elements cannot be trusted. Half truth is a euphemism – it is a lie. They promised an eco resort for Byron Bay with a solar train ride in town.

      Initially, they wanted a heritage train ride for their guests but discovered this could only be approved if they included residents. This train project was not devised to relieve traffic burdens or provide services to the community. A heritage train ride into town would provide a positioning strategy with a unique selling proposition that no one else could possibly match. Bugger, no one thought about the locals so then the marketing department had to retweek the marketing propaganda to include ‘residents’ as train users and ‘traffic burden’ as the amazing solution this train would offer provided by this eco resort.

      They obviously weren’t serious in providing transport for locals as the current Blanch bus service provides ample evidence that residents (despite the current traffic problems) will not use public transport. The current service runs approx every hour and despite multiple stops throughout Sunrise and a night service, the bus is most often empty or sparsely used. (Research shows 400 metres is the about the maximum distance people will walk to access a bus/train station so this train will be even less frequented by locals.)

      Under pressure to deliver this green transport, Elements backtracked and rephrased their project to tell us that they are currently ‘looking into solar power’ for their train. However despite more than three years of looking, they still haven’t found one. The reason for this is pointed out by Lee Cass and that is they don’t exist! Liar liar pants on fire.

      There are probably many reasons why Elements tried to position themselves as an eco resort. ‘Eco’ probably sounds like a resort that fewer residents will object to while attracting a higher-yielding tourist. I am curious as to why they have decided that ‘eco’ is not really their position. I wonder if it has something to do with complying with ecologically sustainable principles (or rather lack of). Whatever the reason, it probably is a good idea since a toxic diesel train is really not congruent with a green image.

      Recently, Ms Flannery was quoted as saying she wanted to enhance the tourist experience in Byron Bay. Well the 1500 tourist beds that lie between her resort and the proposed Shirley St train station will most certainly not have an enhanced tourist experience with a toxic diesel train rolling past twice an hour from 7.30am to 10.30pm.

      So Elements of Byron, we entreat you to be true to your word by enhancing the area’s tourist experience and providing an ecologically sustainable solution to help alleviate local traffic problems. We know you have deep pockets. Let’s harness and unite our local energy and enterprise and restore the train track to an ecological walking and cycling track – a win-win for everyone.

  5. Lee says:

    Angie, no one has ever mentioned hybrid trains with regard to Elements/North Byron Beach Resort/Byron Bay Railway. Yours is the first mention of it. Any mention of it has been the word ‘Solar’ as was in the article quoting Jeremy Holmes. Talking of electric vehicles however, the Tesla model S electric car has a 80 kWH battery. On average we receive about 4 peak sun hours a day. So to charge the car in a day we would need a 20kw solar array to produce this energy. That is 80 x 250 watt solar panels being one metre wide by 1.6 m long. You therefore need an array 80m by 1.6m = 128 sq. m. This isn’t going to fit on the roof of a train and these stats are only for a 2 tonne car. What happens when we are talking about a 63 tonne train? Not possible. And if you could be so kind as to list the solar trains that you mentioned that exist ‘around the world’, I would like to investigate your claim further.

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