“Reduced loss of inventory and increased visibility and status of cargo in transit are just two lucrative services rail carriers will be able to offer as part of the investment of a wireless train control system.”
So what’s the best way for rail operators to harness the power of the sun? First, design the command/control security system and place the equipment where it provides maximum functionality. Then, answer the following questions:
Where is the grid in relation to the power needs? Can you simply connect to local power?
If so, is the node important enough to add a UPS and/or lightning protection?
For each node, what equipment is being powered? Don’t leave anything out.
What is the voltage required for each device? Stay with the same DC voltage if at all possible.
What is the wattage required for each device? Take into account the effect heaters/blowers will have on the wattage.
What is the location of the installation? Be sure to take into consideration the weather and environment.
How many days of autonomy for solar (possible days without sunlight)? Remember, greater autonomy equals greater reliability. For important applications, Solis Energy recommends five days or more.
How many hours of UPS backup time?
How many hours without a recharge for power bridge applications (for gang-switched light poles)?
If connection to the grid is available and can be done with reasonable effort, using this solution and a UPS is usually the most cost effective.
The use of solar and wireless technologies, rather than cabled infrastructure with fiber optics and utility power, is gaining a foothold as rail operators seek a cost-effective solution for command/control and surveillance systems. Rapidly evolving and converging technologies, ready-to-integrate systems and “smart” solutions for continuous outdoor power will bring even more opportunities. With manufacturers evolving new solar-related products to address gaps — such as command and control remote systems, integration into multiple systems and more — the long-standing goal of providing an end-to-end failsafe system for complete train control is now achievable.
Robert Reynolds is the founder and CEO of Solis Energy.
1 Commissioned by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) at the request of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.