A high-voltage photovoltaic system for railways

Research and innovation
Published on 12/16/2022

The SNCF and SNCF Réseau have just entered into a collaboration with the CEA at the INES to develop photovoltaic systems capable of operating at voltages of up to 9000Vdc.

The rail sector has a key role to play in the ecological transition. As it emits much less CO2 than other means of transport, it should experience a new boom.

The European Union, for example, has included in its 2050 transport targets the ambition to

  • Ensure that 50% of freight transport over distances of 300 km or more is carried out by rail or waterways, rather than by road;
  • Ensure that the majority of medium distance journeys are made by rail;
  • Completing the European high-speed rail network.

But the current energy crisis highlights the sector's sensitivity to the price of energy, which for some players can represent up to 20% of their costs.

Among the preferred solutions for strengthening the rail system, stakeholders are considering the implementation of decentralized renewable energy production systems, coupled with battery storage units.

The SNCF and SNCF Réseau are working with the CEA at the INES to develop photovoltaic systems capable of operating at voltages of up to 9000Vdc. The aim is dual:

- To provide an innovative technical solution with dedicated photovoltaic panels to address a DC network at 3kVdc, 6kVdc and 9kVdc while optimizing installation (particularly with regard to cables), operation and maintenance costs;

- And to work on the durability of these technologies so that the installations have a life span at least equivalent to that of conventional photovoltaic systems.

The current market does not provide panels for voltages above 1500Vdc. The SNCF project will therefore benefit from the CEA's expertise in this field as the CEA has already developed photovoltaic panels for the 3000Vdc voltage range. An experimental 3000Vdc power plant is also being installed at INES as part of the European H2020 Tigon project.

En savoir plus sur le projet Horizon 2020 TIGON : https://tigon-project.eu/

This collaboration will strengthen RACCOR-D, a project coordinated by SNCF Réseau, with a triple challenge: to create an intelligent, environmentally friendly MVDC electricity network that offers greater resilience to rail operations. This network will facilitate the use of renewable energies by the railways. It will reduce energy losses and optimize its costs. Its structure will be more ecologically sustainable thanks to the saving of raw materials, particularly copper, and the high recyclability of its components.

The RACCOR-D project is in particular developing a direct current converter. The application of the high-frequency electronic transformer in the railway industry represents a technological break with the traditional architecture using alternating current associated with the passive transformer. The use of a high frequency allows the mass and volume of the transformer to be reduced considerably.

This project will facilitate the use of renewable energy by the railway. It will reduce energy losses and optimize network costs.

Learn more about Raccord-D project: https://www.sncf.com/fr/groupe/newsroom/laureats-ami-corifer

RACCOR-D project partners
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