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High-speed Euro train system gets solar power

Tunnel lined with 16,000 solar panels can now power things like signaling, lighting, and heating for the high-speed rail system.

The project known as the Solar Tunnel in Belgium. Enfinity

High-speed trains running from Paris to Amsterdam will now make part of the trip with the help of solar power.

On Monday, a train successfully made its inaugural run using solar powered systems along the way, said Infrabel, the company that runs Belgium's railroad network. Solar panels were installed atop a 3.4-kilometer length of man-made train tunnel that makes up part of the high-speed rail line running along the E19 highway between Amsterdam and Antwerp, Belgium (see video below).

The solar energy generated by those tunnel panels can now power things like signaling, lighting, and heating for the Antwerp North-South junction and Antwerp Central Station, according to Enfinity.

The Solar Tunnel project, as it's called, was a collaboration of the municipalities of Brasschaat and Schoten in Belgium, the solar installation company Solar Power Systems, and solar developer Enfinity.

Approximately 16,000 solar panels are in place and expected to produce 3,300 megawatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to power about 950 Belgium homes, according to Solar Power Systems.

Since the solar tunnel is one of the first to supply energy directly to trains onsite, the solar installation's performance will be scrutinized and could have an impact on whether other projects in the proposal stage go forward.