Deutsche Bahn wants to become climate-neutral – with solar power, among other things. To this end, tests are currently being carried out to determine whether energy can be generated by solar cells in the rails.

Deutsche Bahn’s rail network is 60,000 kilometers long and could soon no longer only be used to move local and long-distance trains, but also to generate electricity. The British company Bankset Energy is currently testing a similar project together with Deutsche Bahn. The idea: Solar panels are to be installed in the spaces between railroad tracks, which then generate solar power.

According to the company, 100 kilowatts of electricity can be generated on every kilometer of railway line. Calculated over the total of 60,000 kilometers already mentioned, that would mean roughly the output of five nuclear power plants. The project is currently being tested on a test field in the Ore Mountains, which the Bahn Bankset and other companies have made available.

Deutsche Bahn wants to run on green electricity by 2038

A spokeswoman said that the tests would take place regardless of whether the railways would actually use the technologies themselves in their route network. However, the solar cells could produce cheap green electricity – Deutsche Bahn would like to become climate-neutral by 2040, ten years earlier than initially planned. As early as 2038, all rail traffic is to run on green electricity.

It is not yet clear how suitable the idea is for everyday use. For example, it is uncertain to what extent the solar panels will be worn down by the train traffic. According to a report in the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, a train only runs over the structure once a day. Experts see further practical challenges. Ulrich Maschek, professor for traffic safety technology at the TU Dresden, points out in the “SZ” that the ballast in the track has to be compacted regularly. This becomes more difficult when solar cells are mounted above.

Deutsche Bahn put a solar power park in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania into operation last year. This should supply 80 gigawatt hours of green electricity for the next 30 years. So far, however, solar power has only made up a very small proportion of Deutsche Bahn’s energy mix.

Sources: “Süddeutsche Zeitung” / “Netzwelt” / Deutsche Bahn / Bankset Energy