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Trial with solar panels on noise barriers along railway tracks

After successful tests with the integration of solar cells in noise barriers along the motorway, TNO will also carry out tests with barriers along railway tracks. This is being done in co-operation with ProRail, who has a potential of 500 to 700 kilometres of noise barriers for the generation of sustainable energy. It is one of the solutions TNO is working on to deploy existing infrastructure for solar energy.

Headerfoto: ProRail

More information about this trial?

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The NEWRAIL project (Noise Energy Wall Rail America in Limburg) is an initiative of ProRail with participants from the municipality of Horst aan de Maas, Energiecoöperatie Reindonk Energie, The Hague University of Applied Sciences and TNO to equip new noise barriers along the track with solar cells. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) is subsidising the research.

Building up knowledge

In addition to its own roofs and terrain, ProRail also wants to use noise barriers to produce energy with solar panels. The company strives to generate all the electricity it needs in 2030 by itself. This can be done with solar panels on all suitable station roofs and canopies, but also along the track with the noise barriers. The large size of the available surface area offers an opportunity to take a substantial step towards sustainability.

 

Railway track in the village of America, Limburg, where the trial construction will be built.


Design of the construction

TNO is focusing initially on the design of the structure. Experience has already been gained with the integration of solar cells in noise barriers along the motorway in the Solar Highways project of Rijkswaterstaat (Department of Public Works), but solar panels along the railway tracks the conditions are even more critical. The distance between passing trains and the solar panels is relatively low, so the panels must be able to withstand not only vibrations and shock waves but also vandalism and all kinds of weather. At the same time, the energy yield must outweigh the costs of design, construction and maintenance.

Heavy mechanical load

In the design, the method of securing the solar panels to the noise barrier is therefore very central. Since the solar cells must continue to function properly under heavy mechanical load, the panels and the entire construction should be able to pass heavy testing. TNO provides an integral design in which not only the energetic properties of the PV panels play a role, but also structural aspects including maintenance of the systems. In addition, the construction should be relatively simple and affordable to produce, have a long lifespan and a high energy yield.

Monitor performance solar panels along railway tracks

Once the design has been approved and the PV panels installed, TNO will monitor how the system and all components perform over an extended period of time. Advanced measuring systems will be used for at least a year to investigate how the solar cells and panels are holding up under all weather conditions and other external influences, and what the energy yield is. The ultimate goal is to develop a cost-effective, modular and flexibly applicable system suitable for different locations, both on new and existing noise barriers.

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Drs. Robert Bezemer MTD

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  • industrial safety
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