16,000 solar panels installed on the roof of a high-speed rail tunnel in Antwerp, Belgium have been officially entered into service.
The solar installation is the result of a collaboration between Belgian rail operator Infrabel, renewable energy developer Enfinity, the municipalities of Brasschaat and Schoten, intermunicipal financing companies FINEA and IKA, and solar construction company Solar Power Systems.
The project, known as the Solar Tunnel, is the first of its kind in Europe as it is the first time railway infrastructure has been used to generate green energy.
The solar energy will be used in the Antwerp North-South junction (including Antwerp Central Station) by the trains and station servicing both conventional and high-speed trains.
The installation on the roof of the HSL4 (high-speed line Antwerp – Amsterdam) rail tunnel in Antwerp covers a total surface area of 50,000 m², about the size of 8 football pitches.
The solar energy is used to power the railway infrastructure (signalling, lighting, heating of railway stations etc.,) and also the trains using the Belgian rail network.
The installation should generate an estimated 3.3 GWh of electricity per year, equivalent to the average annual electricity consumption of nearly 1,000 homes, and decrease CO2 emissions by 2,400 tons per year.
Looking ahead, 4,000 trains per year – equivalent to one full day of rail traffic – will be able to run entirely on solar energy.
Belgian Railways will continue to invest in the use and generation of renewable energy with a view to sustainable, eco-friendly mobility. The objective is to make rail travel more environmentally friendly.
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