Europe’s first solar-powered rail tunnel has opened in Belgium. The two-mile-long stretch of track, near Antwerp, has been covered with solar panels that will generate enough energy to power the country’s entire train network, including high-speed trains, for one day per year.
The panels cover a high-speed line running from Paris to Amsterdam. To avoid the need to fell protected trees in an ancient forest, a long tunnel was built over the line which has now been topped with 16,000 solar panels.
The electricity produced is equivalent to that needed to power all the trains in Belgium for one day per year, and will also help power Antwerp station.
Half a kilowatt of power can be generated from just one kilometre of solar panelling and the expectation is to produce enough electricity for the equivalent of 950 families a year. The electricity will be used to power Antwerp station.
As well as the extra energy generated, the panels are expected to cut CO2 emissions by 47.3kg million over the next 20 years.
The company behind the green venture are Enfinity, a Belgian solar energy specialist.
Its UK head Bart Van Renterghem, said: “For train operators, it is the perfect way to cut their carbon footprints because you can use spaces that have no other economic value and the projects can be delivered within a year because they don’t attract the protests that wind power does.”