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Between Swiss railroad tracks, Sun-Ways rolls out solar panels like a carpet

In the transition to green(er) energy, the race is on to find physical space to install wind turbines, geothermal plants and solar panels. In Switzerland, local startup Sun-Ways is looking to train tracks. Turns out the space between two rails neatly fits standard photovoltaic panels.

Sun-Ways has patented a system that places photovoltaic panels between railway tracks, allowing trains to produce electricity without taking up any additional land. It's not the first company to consider that space for photovoltaics, but its ease of installation makes this system stand out. Instead of placing panels individually, Sun-Ways links them together and rolls them out like a carpet. That doesn't just make them faster and cheaper to install but also enables temporary removal when railroad companies need to perform regular track maintenance.

The panels feature an antireflective layer to reduce glare for train drivers. They can be kept clean by mounting brushes on trains that automatically sweep the panels when passing over. If Sun-Ways receives approval from Switzerland's Federal Office of Transport, it will launch the world's first removable solar power installation in May 2023 near Buttes train station in western Switzerland.

Photovoltaic panels unfurling between railroad tracks

Trend Bite

Despite the overwhelming urgency of the climate crisis and a narrowing window to prevent catastrophic warming, nimbyism holds ground. All too literally, as local opposition to wind turbines and solar parks continues to jam spokes in the wheels of swift action.

Since land will always be scarce and the planet can't wait for its citizens to rethink their priorities, innovations like solar panels on railroad tracks can make much-needed inroads. The also create opportunities for transport authorities and anyone else managing valuable but underutilized space to get serious about making way for sustainable energy production. Will megawatts produced become one of your brand's new KPIs?