Sun-Ways, a European startup, has developed an innovative mechanical device that deploys removable solar panels along railway tracks. The Swiss-based energy startup believes that this innovation could be implemented on up to half of the railway lines across the world. Co-founder Baptiste Danichert claims that the area between railway lines is wide enough to accommodate standard-sized solar panels without impeding train passage. The panels would not have any visual or environmental impact and could provide a significant amount of electricity to power residences.
Sun-Ways uses preassembled solar panels from Switzerland that are one meter wide and positioned between train lines, fastened to the rails using a piston mechanism. A specially designed train built by Swiss track upkeep company Scheuchzer performs the installation mechanically. As the train travels, it spreads the photovoltaic panels out along the rail track “like an unrolling carpet.” This method is more efficient and cost-effective than traditional solar panel installation, which requires a significant amount of space and infrastructure.
Although solar panel installation along railroad tracks is not a novel concept, the ability to remove the panels is necessary to perform maintenance tasks like rail grinding. Sun-Ways is the first company to have patented a removable system in partnership with the Swiss Federal Technology Institute in Lausanne. Danichert declares that the innovation lies in the ability to remove the panels, which is necessary to perform rail maintenance tasks. Trains can continue to travel along the lines without incident, thanks to rail grinding.