A Belgian “solar tunnel” that will power a high speed rail has been completed by Belgian rail operator Infrabel and renewable energy developer Enfinity. The two-mile-long rail tunnel, built to shelter trains from falling trees, will be topped with 16,000 solar panels. The solar tunnel will power the high-speed rail, which runs from Paris to Amsterdam.
The solar tunnel is the first of its kind in Europe and also the first time railway infrastructure has been used to generate green energy. Approximately 3.3 MWh of electricity will be generated each year, which is said to be the equivalent to the average annual electricity consumption of nearly 1,000 homes. The electricity will be able to power all the trains in Belgium for one day per year. It doesn’t sound like much, but every watt helps, right? Though that does mean about 4,000 trains could be powered on that one day, which isn’t too shabby.
The panels cover a total surface area of 50,000 m², which is about the size of 8 football pitches according to European metrics. The energy produced from these panels is being used to power the railway infrastructure, meaning the signaling, lighting and heating of railway stations, and the trains using the Belgian rail network.