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Byron Shire
June 20, 2021

Unanswered questions over Byron ‘solar train’

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I wrote a letter to the Byron Shire Echo editor last week regarding Elements advertising its ‘Solar Train.’ It was not published. My name was used on Page 1 in the latest Echo without any of my information published.

However, Elements’ Jeremy Holme’s ‘statement’ reads as if he is replying to my unpublished comments. I have been misquoted by Element’s Jeremy Holmes using the information in my letter to The Echo – as if it were his information. I would like an apology from the Echo for this.

I have further questions. As I have continually asked for solid facts from Elements regarding its July 2014 announcement of its solar train, I still fail to see them.

I have been in business. If I were installing a train system involving millions of dollars I would know exactly where the project was headed with dates for completion, costs for labour and costs for infrastructure.

Jeremy is still using vague terms, no dates and no facts. I referred to the GM of Lithgow Mining Railway in letters over a year ago after speaking with him and him saying it was possible to convert this train to solar. That is old news.

Jeremy Holmes, I have questions.

  1. You say ‘technically feasible to implement now.’  Will these electric engines [and ‘necessary components and materials’] be operational when the service starts in Byron in April of 2017?

This is a YES or NO answer.

  1. My understanding is that the curved solar panels pictured on the train in last week’s Echo are for low power generation only. Are the panels on the train right now or was the image photoshopped?
  2. Is there sufficient power in the proposed batteries to run the train in its proposed 56 trips per day [four trips per hour, 14 hours a day] ?
  3. ‘Batteries and their charging off the grid supply are being designed…’ This is a new development. If ‘solar-charged batteries’ are charged off the ‘grid supply,’ they are not solar charged. They are using normal power, generated by burning coal elsewhere.
  4. Are the platforms and sheds designed to support the heavy solar arrays?
  5. ‘The project has the support of Transport for NSW.’ Exactly what support is Elements receiving from Transport for NSW? Is it the same support I get from Transport of NSW when I catch a train to Sydney?

I challenge Jeremy Holmes to reply in this forum and not hide behind media releases.

Lee Cass, Byron Bay


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  1. Here’s a suggestion – Just wait until April! It will be here before you know it and i’m guessing you won’t believe it until you see it anyway…

    Also Lee, where have you been the past week? They have already answered most of your questions through other articles. They have already said the train will be converted to solar hybrid operation by April, in fact they said they had already ordered the parts and they would be arriving around March. I don’t see how the information provided by Lithgow State Mine could possibly be “old news”, aside from the fact that it is literally old as in it was published a year ago. The info provided by State Mine is still very relevant as it outlines how they intend to undertake and successfully run such a conversion – A conversion you previously stated would not be possible.

  2. Supporting Lee Cass in continuing to ask questions which continue to be unanswered by Elements, although other people seem to have answers – where do these answers come from, and why don’t the come from the operators of the “solar train”? I support Lee Cass because in my experience, Elements resort development and the train have both been presented to the community veiled in secrecy, without adequate public information and consultation, and using a series of so-called minor amendments which turn out to be major changes.

    The previous council simply waved these through, hopefully the present council may take a closer look – although the council seems to have been excluded from planning and assessment of this mysteriously ever-changing beast. So far it is fairly clear that it cannot and will not be a “solar train”, since they don’t exist anywhere yet. I believe Lee’s questions and concerns are pertinent, and should be answered properly before he train is allowed to impose a heavy burden on many residents and businesses. However, as the current State Government is clearly in the business of foisting a lot of undesirable infrastructure on various communities, I don’t imagine anyone will be rushing to respond to legitimate concerns and valid questions. Just as it ever was…

  3. People need to stop obsessing about trains-solar or otherwise-while ignoring the fact that the majority of pollution comes from road transport, especially gridlocked traffic a la Ewingsdale Rd.

    If they are so concerned about the tiny amount of pollution from this small train where were they when the huge XPT was running?

    Good luck getting the NSW government to put solar panels on their trains when they start running again-as they must.

    The population of London are experiencing major health problems from the massive polluting from ROAD transport.

    • I agree with you Louise. I live near a main road and would happily trade that for a rail line – Not because I support trains, but the amount of pollution released in road reserves is horrific compared to that of a rail corridor.

    • In the UK Louise they have shown that road based public transport is less polluting per passenger than is train based. Similar results have been found in respect of long distance buses vs trains in the US.

      • Trains more polluting than roads!! That’s complete nonsense-you people keep making this stuff up.

        Roads based transport, both here and in England, produces huge amounts of toxic fumes which is killing people, destroying our environment and is more expensive to build and maintain.

        • The relative impact of transport modes depends on their usage. While in theory a modern full train can be efficient. if they don’t run frequently and where people want to go they won;t impact on higher consumption per passenger use of cars. Buses are more flexible and can and are used to service where people want to go, and being smaller and cheaper to run than trains can be scheduled to run more frequently at the times people want and need to travel. With changing socio-economics it is easier to re-route bus services to areas of need and areas where lower income non-car using people, particularly the elderly live, compared with rail-based services that service the needs of tomes past. There is a lot of call from the Byron Shire to re-instate the rail line, But that would mean a heavy state government outlay to provide transport to one of the wealthiest shires in the state – money that could be better spent improving bus services to all the areas, focusing on the needs identified in the regional and shire transport plans some of which are of higher priority . That way you maximise accessibility and you generate a greater shift to more efficient well used public transport. You need to focus not just on the theoretical efficiency of he mode, but on people, particularly the elderly, youth and those who are not as vocal in articulating their transport needs .

    • It’s obvious that it’s Elements who are obsessing about the so-called “solar train”. Why run ads in the Echo otherwise?? No traffic study, no patronage study, no EIS or SIS. Just a noisy toy train for a coal miner.

  4. Time to come clean on the green washing Mr Holmes. I hope these questions can be answered on your non existent website that appeared in your advert and press release!

  5. I met with Jeremy Holmes from Elements On Feb 8th and finally got some numbers on the solar train:

    – Size of battery pack: 77kWh expandable up to 115kWh
    – Size of PV system on train shed: 30kW
    – Size of PV on train roof: 6kW
    – Energy usage per km: 0.83kWh per km.

    The first three make sense, but 0.83kWh per km seems very low for a 66 tonne train, when most electric buses are rated around 1.2kWh per km, and a typical electric car is 0.25kWh per km.

    Jeremy reckons they’ll use around 2kWh for each 40 second acceleration, so 4kWh for a 6km round trip plus another kWh to run the lights, fans etc. So 5kWh to travel 6km = 0.83kW/km.

    It’s an offset system at present but they will be buying GreenPower from the grid via Enova and they have plans for batteries at the train shed. The train is scheduled to do 14 return trips a day and recharge every 2nd or 3rd stop at the Bayshore Dr station only. The train batteries don’t like to be run below 40% capacity.

    So 14 round trips at 5kWh each = 70kWh. A 30kW PV installation should produce around 120kWh per day on average, so plenty of spare capacity there with the on-roof panels chipping in a little bit extra.

    Jeremy said this is all based on modelling. They haven’t done the solar/electric conversion yet so they don’t really know how it will perform in the real world. As I said the energy usage per km seems very low to me, but it’s straight and flat and steel wheels on tracks have lower rolling resistance than tyres on a road.

    They are still aiming to have it running by Easter.


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