Solar Train on the rails in Byron Bay

A world first in Byron Bay this week – the world’s first ‘true’ solar train will run on a 3km section of the now disused Casino-Murwillimbah line, linking the Byron Bay town centre with the Elements of Byron resort north-west of Byron. It’ll be delivered within the next week or so. 

Byron Bay Solar Train

Byron Bay Solar Train
Byron Bay Solar Train (source:

Funnily enough, in an apt sign of the times with regards to the shift to renewables Australia is currently experiencing, the Elements of Byron resort is owned by coal businessman Brian Flannery. He also owns the solar train company itself – a not for profit named The Byron Bay Railroad Co. 

Solar panels have been used to power train lights before, but the Byron Bay Railroad Co. say their train will be the first to run purely on solar power. The 100-seat train will also have a diesel motor as a backup. 

It’s currently being sent from Lithgow, the train has had eArche solar panels and battery storage installed. The eArche panels were recently introduced to Australia by Chinese businessman and longtime solar power enthusiast Zhengrong Shi. They’ve been manufactured by his Hong-Kong based company SunMan Energy. 

30kW of PV Solar panels have been installed on the station and storage shed built next to the Elements of Byron resort, and the train itself will feature 6.5kW of the SunMan eArche flexible, lightweight solar panels Shi brought to the market earlier this year. This is important as the flexible panels are able to be adapted to the contour of the train so as not to interfere with its aesthetics. The train will also have 77kWh of Kokam solar batteries installed, and the timetable has been tweaked so they are able to use renewable energy at almost all times.

Nick Lake, from Nickel Energy, who consulted on the project, told RenewEconomy last week that the solar train was chosen due to community resistance to the idea of a diesel train (noise, pollution, etc.)

“There was fair bit of community resistance to the idea of a diesel train,” Lake said. “So we started exploring what the options were. We looked at how much power was needed, noted it was a flat run, and that helped size the electric motors.”

Have a look at their website by clicking here. Have you been on the Byron Bay Solar Train? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear about it! 

The Byron Bay Solar Train in action
The Byron Bay Solar Train in action (source:


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Solar Power Growth #1 in 2016

A report by the International Energy Agency into worldwide solar power growth shows that PV solar power grew faster than any other source of energy for the first time in 2016. The figures suggest that renewables will dominate the coming years and we can expect 2017 to follow suit – with China accounting for almost 50% of PV solar plants. 

Solar Power Growth Statistics

The International Energy Agency, which was set up after the 1973 oil crisis, has released figures which show that 165GW of renewable energy was completed in 2016 – almost 2/3 the net expansion in all electricity supply. Of this 165GW, PV solar power grey by 50%. 

The Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Fatih Birol, said in a statement that this is the “birth of a new era (in solar power)”. “We expect that solar PV capacity growth will be higher than any other renewable technology through 2022,” Birol wrote.

The report predicts that around 1,000GW of renewables will be installed in the next five years – which would be enough to power China, Germany, and India combined. 

Solar Power Growth Statistics
Solar Power Growth Statistics (source: Bloomberg)

Solar Power in China

Solar Power in China has been growing at a rapid rate over the past few years due to government support for renewables and an increasing desire to end their reliance on coal which has led to serious issues with air pollution and environmental degradation, country-wide. China installed so much solar in 2016 that it almost made up for 50% of the global market – almost 35GW compared to its closest rival, the USA with 15GW, bringing China’s total PV capacity to over 77.4GW. This makes China the world’s largest market for both photovoltaics and solar thermal energy. In addition to this, China has been the world’s leading installer of PV solar since 2013 and there are over 400 solar companies located there. 

Paolo Frankl of the IEA’s renewable energy division noted how important the Chinese investment in solar has been, worldwide: “China has been for a long time the leader in manufacturing. What’s new is the share in the market. This year, it was equivalent to the total installed capacity of PV in Germany.”


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