how the SNCF relies on solar power to run its trains


Charles Guyard, edited by Yanis Darras

The SNCF wishes to accelerate the deployment of solar panels on its land. Objective for the company, to run part of its trains thanks to the sun. Near Le Mans, this project has already become a reality, thanks to a photovoltaic power station. Equipped with 30,000 panels, it produces the equivalent of the consumption of 4,500 households.

Accelerate. This is the key word of this energy return. Faced with the low availability of the nuclear fleet at the moment and the gas prices following the war in Ukraine, the government wants to halve the time to create wind and solar farms. Main concerned, the SNCF adds to this dynamic.

Use the land

“The fact that the SNCF is the leading consumer of energy obliges us to participate in this war effort”, explains Laurent Febvre, central west director of SNCF Immobilier. Richly endowed with land, the railway company wishes to take the turn of renewable energies. “Today we have 19,000 hectares of land. When we have a railway uselessness, we also think about the conversion of a certain number of its land to photovoltaic farms”, he explains at the microphone of Europe 1.

The consumption of “4,500 households”

Example at the Arnage marshalling yard in Le Mans where the SNCF signed a 25-year lease with a specialized company to install and manage 30,000 solar panels on a vast unexploited wasteland of 17 hectares. “It’s a plant that produces annually, which represents the consumption, about 4,500 homes,” explains Thomas Mezeray, Grand Ouest sales manager for Arkolia Energies. A performance that proves that solar is not a technology reserved for southern regions. Here, the sunshine rate is on average about 80 days per year. And yet, straining your ears, you distinctly hear the noise of an inverter.

Gender multiplication

“There, on a sunny day, it works at full speed. So there are two inverters today on this plant which will convert this direct current into alternating current to inject energy directly into the network”. A network that this solar field will supply more weakly this winter, due to lack of sunshine in Sarthe at this time of year. To compensate for the lack of production, the company wishes to multiply this type of installation. “It is now possible to install photovoltaic panels throughout France”, concludes Thomas Mezeray.

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