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First railway solar power plant put into operation

The Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) has put the world’s first railway solar power plant into operation in Wilfleinsdorf (District of Bruck a.d. Leitha) in Lower Austria. In an on-site tour of the premises, the 16.7 Hz photovoltaic facility with 7,000 m² of solar panels directly located on the tracks of the eastern railway was presented. The plant should generate about 1,100 MWh of electricity.

The project is in a test phase until the summer of 2016, explained Johann Pluy, Division Manager for Railway Systems in the company. “The special thing about this facility is that it directly feeds electricity in the overhead line for the trains“. The innovation is a specially-developed so-called power inverter, which converts the generated direct voltage into 16.7 Hz alternating voltage, Pluy said. 95 of these units have been installed on the two-hectare railway property.

Some 200 trains from Vienna to Salzburg can be operated using the targeted 1,100 MWh of electricity to be produced each year, Pluy added. In addition, the facility saves 400 tons of CO₂ each year. According to information provided by ÖBB, 90 percent of the electricity used to run trains comes from hydropower, two percent from green electricity and eight percent from natural gas.   

The aim is to increase the share of the company’s own electricity production, according to Pluy. This should ensure the reliability of the energy supply and reduce dependency on the electricity market. “If the project turns out to be technologically and economically feasible, we want to expand it to the southern and southeastern areas of Austria”, the Division Manager announced.    

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