Here’s some sunny news: the first solar-powered train in Latin America will run in Argentina’s Jujuy province. By the end of 2019, the train anticipates operating from La Quiaca to the capital San Salvador de Jujuy. The construction of Tren de la Quebrada began back on February 15th, 2018, linking Humahuaca to Volcán, with eight stops along the way.
On July 11th, Jujuy’s provincial government voted to move the project forward, financing the endeavor with a AR $75 million loan. Now, the train will extend in both directions, from Humahuaca up to La Quiaca and from Volcán down to San Salvador. A solar park is being created in Humahuaca, which will generate the electricity needed to power the train.
The project was inspired by the success of the first solar train in the world in Byron Bay, Australia, which has been successfully operating since December 16, 2017. Not only is the Byron Bay train a remarkable achievement in sustainability as a “net carbon positive” means of transportation, but it has also advanced tourism in the area. Now, the solar train in Argentina will be the world’s second. Its construction will be carried out by both the local company Empea and international specialists who helped to bring the first solar train to fruition.
When Governor Geraldo Morales announced the project, many reacted with criticism and skepticism about the technology. But the project is looks deeply promising. The Byron Bay train has been running smoothly for over a year and a half, meaning the technology has proved itself successful. Now, other train operators all across the world, such as Indian Railroads, are experimenting with solar technology.
As for the environmental impact: in general, electric trains are typically 50-75 percent more energy-efficient than single-passenger cars and trucks, but the overall impact depends on the form of energy that powers the train. With solar, the passenger-miles generated are practically emissions-free, even accounting for energy costs of shipping and manufacturing the panels.
And while the project may be expensive to finance, Governor Morales wants to achieve a “first class tourist train” and hopes that the project will advance local tourism. At every stop, new infrastructure will be developed, focusing on the food, Carnival and jujeño culture of the surrounding area.
Once it starts operating, the plan is to extend the train to Uyuni and Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, and Machu Picchu and Cusco in Peru. Train capacity will be 240 passengers, and three round trips will be completed per day. All aboard!