Solar energy to propel high-speed trains between Leuven and Liège

In Hannuit, in the Belgian province of Liège, on the border with Flanders, there will be a park with more than 3,800 solar panels. That solar panel park managed by Infrabel will provide solar energy to the Leuven-Liège high-speed railroad line. The project has a price tag of about 2 million euros, 90% of which will be covered by federal subsidies.

Infrabel, the manager of the Belgian railroad network, is also looking into installing solar panels on the verges of high-speed lines. It has signed a letter of intent with the operator of the high-speed train Eurostar. “The objective is to cover 15% of Eurostar’s electricity needs in Belgium with solar energy,” says Eurostar chief Gwendoline Cazenave. Five other sites are also under study.

2 700 MW/h

The solar park should be operational within a year and will produce about 2,700-megawatt hours annually, which corresponds to the annual consumption of 650 households.

The power produced will serve to run 120 high-speed trains between Belgium and Germany and more than 350 domestic trains that use the tracks each week. When the sun does not shine, it can be switched to energy from wind turbines near the Avernas traction substation or the high-voltage grid.

It is the second high-speed line in Belgium where solar panels will provide energy. Since 2011, the high-speed line between Antwerp and the Dutch border has been connected to a solar park in Schoten and Brasschaat.

Meanwhile, Infrabel is also studying the possibility of installing solar panels on the verge of high-speed lines. The electricity produced would flow directly to the overhead lines without passing through a traction substation. The rail network operator has signed a letter of intent with high-speed train operator Eurostar.

More green electricity for Infrabel

The rail sector in Belgium consumes 1,500 gigawatt hours of electricity each year – 1,7% of all electricity consumption – making it one of the largest consumers in Belgium. Most of the electricity is sold by Infrabel to the railroad companies to run the trains.

With the rest, the workshops, offices, etc. of Infrabel receive the necessary power. Infrabel has the ambition of reducing its electricity consumption and tripling the share of green electricity in consumption in 2021-2026, says top executive Benoît Gilson.

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