California’s high speed train network, spreading across 1287.5 KM of the US, is to be the world’s first high speed train that will run entirely off of solar energy. Approved in 2008, the projects initial estimate in cost was $33 billion. Since then, the project has slowed and cost increased, now at an estimated current total of $128 billion.
However, last month, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has confirmed that once completed, the train will be running entirely off of solar energy. An ambitious plan, that Tesla’s Elon Musk commented as being “a bullet train that is one of the most expensive per mile.”
To power the train, a total of 44 megawatts of energy is needed. This will need to be generated by 552 acres of solar panels – this is equivalent to 417 football fields in size. The train will also support onboard electric batteries capable of storing up to 62 megawatt hours of power.
Most of the energy will be used to power the train itself, with estimated top speeds of 354 KM/H. However, there will also be a large amount of the stored energy used to help maintain function in the Californian climate and allow the train to be self powering if energy supplies fail.
Construction has been split into 10 phases, with phase 1 focusing on 836 KM across California.
Upon completion, the train will initially connect many Californian cities, with the ultimate goal of having terminals across the US as well as in Vancouver, Canada. San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco are just some of the cities planned as part of the development.
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However, the development has not been plain sailing since it’s announcement in 2008. There have been questions regarding the route of the train and why it is was running through California’s Central Valley. Developing economic growth within this area was one of the primary goals of the route choice, with Central Valley being one of the less affluent areas within California.
Additionally, the soaring cost of the development from a projected $33bn to $128bn was primarily due to the environmental clearance needed for the land. As the majority of the track is needing to run through private land, negotiating payments for the landowners and local governments cost $1.3bn alone.
With the current targets, the project is set for completion by 2030, with the energy source to be completed and ready by 2026. With this being the world’s first high speed train fully powered by green energy, it’s success could be vitally important in similar projects being implemented across the globe.