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A very crappy photo of a wind farm I made from a train window (Mosonmagyaróvár, Hungary):

Check this diary for another photo of the same farm, where you can just make out the pairs of railway line catenary poles -- for scale.

In Europe, railway right-of-way usually doesn't extend beyond the full track -- where I include not only the rails, sleepers and trackbed, but the earthen foundation and the water trenches, too. So for a two-track mainline, say ten metres wide.

On your argument of transporting wind turbine parts on railway: unfortunately, this is less good an idea than it looks on the face of it. On one hand, catenary would be a problem for big cargo. Less so in the US with its mostly diesel mainlines, still, tunnels might cause a problem for bigger parts. On the other hand, the length of blades would be beyond the length of railcars, for the biggest even the length of spacing between catenary poles -- one would need specialised coupled wagons and special rules of no traffic in the other direction (hanging into the cross section in curves).

I am not sure whether there are rules taking into account potential break-off of blades, but that may also be a problem.

Another issue might be that wind turbine placement usually takes into account relief and wind directions and the placement of other turbines, so placing them along a railway line might not be the best option.

However, one plus for placing wind farms near railway lines might be power lines: railways need them anyway, so they could be coupled.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 02:32:10 PM EST
However, one plus for placing wind farms near railway lines might be power lines: railways need them anyway, so they could be coupled.

This might not be the case in much of the US, with its diesel engines.

by Zwackus on Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 08:20:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed. In spite of no power lines, improvements are on the way.

I'd guess that trains are a somewhat undiscovered frontier for eco-efficiency. But maybe that's just my ignorance speaking... I think the ICE 3 feeds back electricity into the net when it brakes, but I don't know of any other trains that do so. DoDo?

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 09:05:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Almost all modern electrics do feedback, the power electrics for the AC motors make that easier. (And it can be done most efficiently just on the power system also used by the German railways.) In fact, I believe the regular S-Bahn multiple units of the latest generation (not in Berlin) absorb a greater percentage of braking energy with regenerative braking than ICE-3 sets.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 01:32:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is called regenerative braking, isn't it?
by Gag Halfrunt on Tue Dec 4th, 2007 at 02:12:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, proper link. But see last sentence in my comment :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 4th, 2007 at 03:37:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
AFAIU, the Cityrail sparkies (electrics) in Sydney (and out to Wollongong, Newcastle, and the Blue Mountains) put their regenerative braking into the grid, and they are DC. The mechanical brakes mostly just do the last little bit to bring the train to a full stop.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 08:28:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Europe, railway right-of-way usually doesn't extend beyond the full track -- where I include not only the rails, sleepers and trackbed, but the earthen foundation and the water trenches, too. So for a two-track mainline, say ten metres wide.

AFAIU, most US inter-urban ROW west of the Mississippi ... which just so happens to include some of the best wind resource states ... were allocated for four track lines and a buffer zone, and land values between cities are normally not high enough to justify sorting out the complex structures of outright ownership, perpetual rotating leases and transport easements making up the right of way in order to grab small slivers of land.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 08:33:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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