Joint project “PV4Rail” starts

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Joint project “PV4Rail” – solar power for the traction power network – starts

The traction power network has almost 8,000 kilometers of its own power lines, which are spread almost across Germany and operate at their own frequency of 16.7 Hertz. The areas to the left and right of the rails offer huge potential for photovoltaic systems. However, there is currently no cost-effective system technology available to use this potential cost-effectively outside of 50 Hz feed-in points. The PV4Rail project aims to close this system technology gap and develop a cost- and energy-efficient solution.

The locally available space potential along the railway tracks in Germany is currently hardly being used. Politically, an obstacle to this has already been reduced: funding conditions have been adjusted according to the current EEG, so that from January 1, 2023, ground-mounted PV systems along tracks and highways up to a distance of 500 meters are eligible for funding. Nevertheless, there are currently no PV systems in Germany that feed directly into the traction power network.

This is not least due to the lack of system technology for feeding into a single-phase 16.7 Hz network, which is fundamentally different from feeding into three-phase power networks. However, the full economic potential can only be exploited with optimized system technology. For this, the basics must be developed and the corresponding power electronics and system technology developed.

The focus of the PV4Rail project and the planned pilot system is therefore on the development of optimized control technology and power electronics for economical operation. In addition to an overall concept (switchgear, transformers, etc.), this includes the development and testing of a traction power inverter with an output of 1 MVA and the preliminary planning of a concrete demonstration project. Furthermore, the overall national potential of the available areas is determined by analyzing geodata.

The partners involved in the project are VENSYS Elektrotechnik GmbH, EnBW and IP SYSCON GmbH. The project is also supported by an associated partnership with DB Energie GmbH as the operator of the traction power network and the Swiss Federal Railways SBB. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection and runs until the end of 2024.


(Picture: Ground-mounted PV system along a railway line. © Deutsche Bahn AG / Claus Weber)