Swiss start-up Sun-Ways is set to make history by installing solar panels on railway tracks in May, creating an innovative way to generate sustainable energy. The company’s unique removable system has been patented with the support of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and is scheduled to go into service close to the Buttes train station in Switzerland pending approval from the Federal Office of Transport.
Sun-Ways’ mechanical technology uses a specially constructed train to lay photovoltaic panels on the tracks, which unfurls the panels down the rails like an “unrolling carpet.” The panels are pre-assembled at a Swiss factory, and the electricity generated is fed into the grid to power homes because delivering it to railway operations is a more complicated procedure. The firm claims that the 5,317-kilometer-long railway network in Switzerland has the potential to produce one Terawatt-hour (TWh) of solar energy annually, which is equivalent to around 2% of Switzerland’s total energy consumption.
Sun-Ways has big goals for its eco-innovation, including intentions to expand its solar panel system across Germany, Austria, and Italy, as well as potentially covering 50% of the world’s trains. Yet, the company’s pilot project in Buttes still has a lot to prove. The International Union of Railways is worried that the panels could develop microcracks, increase the chance of forest fires, and cause train drivers to become distracted by reflections. According to Sun-Ways, these panels are more durable than typical ones and may include an anti-reflection filter to keep light out of the train drivers’ eyes. Other features include built-in sensors that guarantee appropriate operation and brushes that may be connected to the ends of trains to clean the panels’ surface. The company is also developing a device to dissolve frozen precipitation, which could prevent the horizontal panels from being useful in icy and snowy conditions.
The eco-innovation by Sun-Ways highlights Switzerland’s commitment to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives as it strives to become a carbon-neutral country. Sun-Ways’ unique efforts in the field of sustainable energy could encourage other countries and companies to support ESG initiatives and look into new ways to produce sustainable energy.