Belgium Launches First Solar-Driven Train

The first train in Belgium driven by solar energy is to ride on Monday between Antwerp Central and Station Noorderkempen in Brecht.

According to a spokesperson for rail network manager Infrabel, the project is a "milestone" in the development of renewable energy.

The train is powered by some 16,000 solar panels on the so called "Zonnetunnel", a some 3,5 kilometres (2.2 miles) long tunnel between Schoten and Brasschaat, northern Belgium. The panels cover a surface of some 50,000 sq m (538,200 sq ft) and will generate 3,300 MWh electricity per year, or the yearly consumption of 950 households.

These solar panels are powering both trains and rail infrastructure, the spokesperson said, adding that the "green trains" are driving just as conventional trains and passengers will not notice any difference.

According to Infrabel, the plans are for 4,000 green trains per year. The spokesperson pointed out that in this project the company chose to buy "clean" rather than "classical" energy.

The installation of the solar panels was initiated by the municipal authorities of Brasschaat and Schoten and energy firm Solar Power Systems. The investments totalled some EUR 15.7 million (USD 23m) and were provided by parties including solar energy firm Enfinity and Infrabel.

(EUR 1.0 = USD 1.463)

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