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220-mph Solar-Powered Train Proposed In Arizona

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the gonna-soak-up-the-sun dept.

Transportation 416

Mike writes "An ambitious Arizona company has recently revealed plans for a solar powered bullet train that will streak across the desert at 220 mph, traveling from Tuscon to Phoenix in 30 minutes flat. Proposed by Solar Bullet LLC, the system comprises a series of tracks that would serve stations including Chandler, Casa Grande, Red Rock, and Marana, and may one day be extended to Flagstaff and Nogales. The train would require 110 megawatts of electricity, which would be generated by solar panels mounted above the tracks." Local coverage of the plan takes a harder look, noting that Solar Bullet LLC is two guys who are now asking local governments in the towns at which such a train would potentially stop for $35K for a legal and feasibility study. Total cost is estimated at $27B.

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Interesting (5, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925511)

Whether or not this would fly will all come down to cost. I've made the drive from Tucson to Phoenix when it is bumper to bumper the entire way and going the speed limit is physically impossible. A half hour train ride sounds very nice in light of that. But the reality is the ride and the electric car rental on the other end have to be cheaper than driving down there in one's own car. Arizona cities are textbook cases of sprawl. It is almost impossible to get around in them without a vehicle, especially in the summer. It's unlikely too many people would want to just ride the train and not need a car on the other end.
 
Then there is that time thing. It's not making the trip in 30 minutes if it stops 5 times between the two cities. Maybe they are thinking of express trips interspersed with trips that stop? The article doesn't say. Of course the way things are going, eventually this would run right up the middle of one big metro area.

Re:Interesting (5, Informative)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925583)

Am I the only person who read the summary and instantly thought of the Simpsons episode "Marge vs. the Monorail" where a fast-talking salesman sells a malfunctioning solar-powered monorail to Springfield?

Re:Interesting (5, Insightful)

clong83 (1468431) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925761)

No, it was my thought as well. But as a once long-time resident of Tucson, I can say that a functioning, efficient, high-speed passenger train service between these two cities is an excellent idea. These guys might be snake-oil salesmen, but even so, hopefully it wakes some other more serious people up.

Re:Interesting (5, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926073)

The problem with the snake oil salesmen, is they make the honest people with similar appearing ideas look bad when they finally show up.

Re:Interesting (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925957)

I remember it being defective, but not solar powered.

Re:Interesting (1)

Chabil Ha' (875116) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925973)

No, but it got me thinking of the feasibility of a solar powered warp drive!

Re:Interesting (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925997)

That's called an ion sail, actually. They work quite well.

Re:Interesting (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926131)

So how fast do they go? Warp 2?

Re:Interesting (5, Funny)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926183)

Well, sir, there's nothing like a bona fide, electrified, warp-six, ion sail!

What'd I say?

Ion Sail!

What's it called?

Ion Sail!

That's right! Ion Sail!

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27926003)

Wow and no mention of a beo-wolf cluster of trains, could you imagine...

&4 4ny1 3513 that posts the same crap:
May you live in interesting times
May you come to the attention of those in authority
May you find what you are looking for

Re:Interesting (5, Funny)

dfm3 (830843) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925607)

Whether or not this would fly will all come down to cost.

I bet that regardless of cost, it won't. Because, well, it's a train, and last time I checked trains couldn't fly. :-P

Re:Interesting (4, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925811)

Ha! Shows what you know [wordpress.com] . Bet you'll tell me next that trains can't travel through time!

Re:Interesting (0)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925847)

According to one of the sample headers that ships with HeaderDoc, TrainsCanFly.

/*!
@category Trains_2(TrainsCanFly)
@abstract The TrainsCanFly category adds levitation methods to the Train class.
@discussion Methods declared in the TrainsCanFly category of the Train class can only be used with properly equiped Train objects.
*/

@interface Trains_2(TrainsCanFly)
/*!
@method levitateToHeight:
@abstract Raises the train specified number of centimeters
@param height The number of centimeters to levitate.
*/
- (void)levitateToHeight:(float)height;
@end

Re:Interesting (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925709)

Whether or not this would fly will all come down to cost.

And aerodynamics. And gravity.

Seriously, though, strict monetary cost is a misleading metric for mass transit. There are other costs, like inconvenience, time, etc that make a big difference to potential users.

One thing I'd like to note about areas that still have a large potential for development... The trains can (and should) be planned and/or built first. Proper growth planning and direction can then help mitigate the uniform sprawl that makes mass transit so ineffective for much of the US.

I'd question the utility of building out expensive infrastructure in the southwest of the US anyway... if it takes 30 years to pay off, will there even be enough water in those areas to support the dense population required for mass transit effectiveness?

Re:Interesting (0)

PotatoFarmer (1250696) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925805)

In Phoenix, the only metric for determining feasibility of a public works project is how much it can inconvenience the populace. Specifically, the more the better.

Oh, how I hate you, utterly useless new light rail system in the middle of the goddamn city.

Re:Interesting (2, Interesting)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925873)

I agree - and that's why I say the cost has to be lower. When I still lived in Phoenix a few years ago I was tired of driving my commute so I looked into public transit. It had the other costs you mention, plus it cost more monetarily. It just didn't make sense. For people to put up with the other issues they must either have no other choice, or it has to be cheaper.
 
That's a good point about the water. I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of the people living in places like Las Vegas or Phoenix don't even realize that they live in an artificial environment. The day the water stops coming from up north, they either move or die. PBS did a great documentary based on Reisner's Cadillac Desert [wikipedia.org] that does a great job highlighting some of these issues. That's a whole other can of worms.
 
But as of right now the growth between Phoenix and Tucson is unreal. My sister lives in Casa Grande now and last time I visited I was just stunned. When I was a kid there was nothing down there. Now, thousands of homes, the strip malls, all of it. It's bizarre to see. I'm not sure what all the people do down there. In Tucson there is the University, Raytheon and a few others. In between there's the prison and I don't know what else.

Re:Interesting (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926299)

re: the cost... if high-speed rail is *faster* than commuting by car, then it could be more expensive than driving, and still be feasible. The problem is that neither jobs, nor homes, are centrally concentrated. This makes the inconvenience of mass transit one of the primary costs, from a rider's perspective. I'm a firm believer in sound growth policy that factors in future need for mass transit; Arizona, by and large, has no such policy.

I've a sister in Boise ID -- they are undergoing massive growth also. Because of poor planning, they have a nasty rush hour, and no ability to put in mass transit. They had planned a light rail system, but the NIMBYs shot it down. It amazes me how high-growth areas in the west have ignored the lessons other cities learned too late.

At any rate, I'm glad you picked up on the water issue -- it is, I think, going to be the driving issue re: growth in the west for decades to come. Between the water table dropping (and being contaminated to boot), and increasing demand for agricultural, residential, and industrial usage of water, the west is pretty much fucked in the long term. Big changes will have to come in our usage.

I know you already understand all this... I'm just writing it out in case other people are interested in the basic details.

I do disagree with you, however, on your statement that "it's a whole other can of worms" :). Water demand is tied into all issues in much of the west. It pervades agriculture, industry, lifestyle, growth planning, etc. Any capital expenditure needs to consider the impact of water shortages (or risk of) on long-term utilization, revenue, and cost. I wish people would begin to think about water conservation in all facets of their life, and not sideline it.

FYI, I live in the northeast, and even here water use becomes an issue (due to droughts, and due to storage capacity and flooding -- high demand for storage capacity for NYC has resulted in several deadly floods of the Delaware river; the water authority refuses to allow for a buffer in resevoir capacity to mitigate flooding).

Re:Interesting (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926321)

How realistic is it to build desalination plants on the coast and pipe the resulting water to the desert communities?

Re:Interesting (1)

FrameRotBlues (1082971) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926347)

I'm not sure what all the people do down there.

Snow birds from the upper Midwest are absorbing the heat and spending their retirement money.

Re:Interesting (2, Insightful)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925739)

For 27 Billion I would rather have robot cars that drive themselves.

Re:Interesting (5, Funny)

gentlemen_loser (817960) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926307)

For 27 Billion I would rather have robot cars that drive themselves.

Great! For safety reasons, we'll just make them bigger, longer, sit multiple people, and ride on tracks. Will that work for you?

Re:Interesting (1)

vivin (671928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925775)

A Phoenix-Tucson train would be nice.

I think what would also be nice is bullet-train service to San Diego or Los Angeles.

Re:Interesting (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925963)

A train to San Diego or LA would be interesting purely from an engineering perspective as I'm guessing it would mean some rather large tunnels.

Re:Interesting (1)

ImYourVirus (1443523) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926001)

A Phoenix-Tucson train would be nice.

I think what would also be nice is bullet-train service to San Diego or Los Angeles.

For 100 trillion dollars I can make that happen, hell we'll make one from the west to east coast. Let me know when the check is in the mail.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27925795)

Then there is that time thing. It's not making the trip in 30 minutes if it stops 5 times between the two cities. Maybe they are thinking of express trips interspersed with trips that stop? The article doesn't say.

Yes it does:
With four tracks, the innermost two would be reserved for nonstop travel, going 116 miles in a half hour. The outer two tracks would allow a one-hour trip, with stops slated for Chandler, Maricopa, Casa Grande, Eloy, Red Rock and Marana.

FWIW, Phoenix just got its first 20 miles of light rail [wikipedia.org] at a cost of 1.4 billion. It just started operating about 6 months ago.

Re:Interesting (1)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925815)

We'll maybe if this is feasible then we can line both sides of the interstates with PV cells. That covers a lot.

Maybe you could also power automobiles this way by induction for safety reasons this way. You still would have to have some extra power from somewhere when the sun doesn't shine.

This would lead to hybrid designs which I don't like because of the extra weight. Imagine what a car would weigh if it only needed electric motors without batteries or an internal combustion engine?

But...for right now this would only be feasible for the interstate highways.

Trains are cool and all for distances between large cities, but it wont work for everywhere in the US. A pure electric vehicle seems to be the solution. With short range batteries that can be standardized like gas pumps are today and can be changed out on the fly at a battery station instead of a gas station and charged at home when you have the time.

The thing for the government to do would be to line all it's roads with PV cells to charge these batteries.

Standardization is the key to make something like this or some of the other good ideas work. So I propose we spend $34,000 on a study to find out which way is best and I will study it by paying an expert $10,000. Then we will know.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27925947)

Did you forget to RTFA?
4 tracks -- inner 2 for express non-stop, outer 2 for local service.

Re:Interesting (4, Informative)

Peeet (730301) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926047)

Then there is that time thing. It's not making the trip in 30 minutes if it stops 5 times between the two cities. Maybe they are thinking of express trips interspersed with trips that stop? The article doesn't say.

But, the article DOES say. Did you mistake the summary for the article? What you're reading now is a comment if you're still confused.

From said article:

With four tracks, the innermost two would be reserved for nonstop travel, going 116 miles in a half hour. The outer two tracks would allow a one-hour trip, with stops slated for Chandler, Maricopa, Casa Grande, Eloy, Red Rock and Marana.

Re:Interesting (1)

bigjarom (950328) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926181)

Well, it's 2009 and Phoenix just now finally got a light rail system (that goes about 40 mph). I'll expect this to be running by 2109 or so.

Re:Interesting (1)

LotsOfPhil (982823) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926215)

I've made the drive from Tucson to Phoenix when it is bumper to bumper the entire way and going the speed limit is physically impossible.

"The entire way" is a massive exaggeration. This is a very sparsely populated 100 mile stretch of highway.

It should be noted that "Marana to Chandler" is not quite the same as "Tucson to Phoenix". Marana is far northern Tucson and Chandler is far southern Phx. Tucson to Phoenix is 114 miles, Marana to Chandler is 74.

Let us do the math. (4, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926217)

They claim the cost will be 27 billion dollars. If they make 100 dollars per rider it will take how many riders?
If they build it using bond money you will have to pay the interest as well. It would take 270,000,000 riders and that is without interest. So if you had a million riders a year it would only take 270 years to pay it off.
So I would say that it is insane. Yes you could charge more for the ticket but I was using $100 as the profit on the ticket. You will still have to pay for up keep and other operating expenses.

Re:Let us do the math. (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926329)

If they build it using bond money you will have to pay the interest as well. It would take 270,000,000 riders and that is without interest. So if you had a million riders a year it would only take 270 years to pay it off.

Does that count the cost of the real estate? They could put the stations near a major attraction, downtown center, etc, but that would be inconveniently noisy for the non-riders and the land would be really expensive. So, lets put the track and stations in the middle of nowhere. Weirdly, many mass transit projects are designed this way.

Re:Interesting (1)

pfleming (683342) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926277)

The second article stated there would be 4 sets of tracks. The inner two would be dedicated to express type service whereas the outer two would be all stops.

Re:Interesting (1)

nsayer (86181) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926367)

Then there is that time thing. It's not making the trip in 30 minutes if it stops 5 times between the two cities.

CalTrain baby bullets make a ~45 mile trip in an hour with 5 stops or so at a cruising speed of 79 mi/hr, but since the service is driven with diesel-electric locomotives, the acceleration and stopping is a non-trivial percentage of the dwell time. I could imagine a CalTrain express service with EMUs could make that same trip in 45 minutes. That's not 30, but then the CalTrain EMUs would have a maximum top speed less than half of what is quoted for these trains.

Tucson to Phoenix is twice as many miles, but the trains will be more than twice as fast, and since the stops will be further apart than CalTrains, the acceleration/stopping time will be less of a percentage of the travel time.

Whether they could do it in a half hour or not would largely depend on how quickly they can get people on and off the train at the stations.

Of course the way things are going, eventually this would run right up the middle of one big metro area.

Aren't there Indian reservations that would ostensibly prevent that sort of thing? Aren't they the reason there aren't more highway lanes in that corridor?

Maybe I'm thinking of New Mexico.

This is what the "new green economy" is all about. (4, Insightful)

sageres (561626) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925551)

This is what the green economy is all about. Get rich on the government handouts or by imposing government requirements of consumers' energy consumption.

Re:This is what the "new green economy" is all abo (1, Funny)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925667)

Why yes. Yes it is! Welcome to the Obamanation

Re:This is what the "new green economy" is all abo (2, Informative)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926021)

Thank you for sending our US dollars to your comrades in al-Qaeda-financing Saudi Arabia, "patriot".

Re:This is what the "new green economy" is all abo (4, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925797)

As opposed to the standard non-green economy, which is all about externalizing environmental costs, so that others can pay for it, while you rub your hands in anticipation of quarterly profits?

Lack of environmental regulation and incentives is a handout to companies that pollute; the cost is born by the general public (or, even worse, by a small segment of the public who are negatively impacted in a massive way (flooding, disease, loss of livelihood, etc).

Yes, people will take advantage of incentives -- this is true of any incentive. On the other hand, I consider people who bitch about environmental incentives and regulations to be selfish bastards who choose not to, or cannot, comprehend that there are true costs to environmental damages, and that these externalized costs must either be internalized by the parties responsible, or matched by incentives to be environmentally responsible.

Re:This is what the "new green economy" is all abo (1)

pfleming (683342) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926289)

Rush, is that you?

Paging Lyle Lanley... (0, Redundant)

Enuratique (993250) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925565)

It will surely put Chandler, Casa Grande, Red Rock, and Marana on the map

Re:Paging Lyle Lanley... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27925897)

God I wish...when I lived in Marana UPS had no clue where I was.

Re:Paging Lyle Lanley... (1)

pfleming (683342) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926355)

Put Chandler on the map? A stop in Chandler means Intel [intel.com] employees can commute from Mexico - or Flagstaff.

Simpsons did it (3, Funny)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925567)

Two guys pitching a feasibility study? Sounds like the monorail episode of the Simpsons.

I'm wondering.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27925573)

is this the rock'n'roll train ?

Great concept (1)

kcfoxie (1504385) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925579)

Par the link:

"And so the project principals are looking to city officials at each of the intermediate stations, seven in total, and asking them to put up $5,000 toward the $35,000 study cost."

I'm not convinced that solar panels alone can power the train at all times, but I really do like the idea. The concept of having electric cars with a 50mi range for rent at the stations is also novel, reminds me of ZipCar and TriMet's MAX Lightrail in Portland Oregon.

Re:Great concept...AND the math works! (1)

clonan (64380) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926059)

The math seems to work out for me:

Known
Need: 110 MW
Distance Traveled: ~117 KM
Hours of full sun / day: 5.5
total solar flux: 1000 W / m^2

Assumed:
Width of the whole system (track plus side buffer): 10 M
Efficiency of panels used: 30%

So:

117 KM = 117000 M x 10 M = 1,170,000 m^2 x 30% = 531,000 Watts x 5.5 = 2,920,500 Watts/day = 2.9 Megawatts / day

This means you could use 15% efficiency panels and still do it. Plus 10 M width is probably on the low side.

Re:Great concept...AND the math works! (1)

kcfoxie (1504385) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926151)

Then that's fantastic. I'd hope they'd have a battery backup option for partially cloudy days, or days when it does indeed rain.

How much for the 60 mph version? (3, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925587)

I don't really feel like paying $27B so that people in Arizona can have super-duper-fast commute. That's a lot of our cash or the riders' luxury.

Can't they just get a 60 mph version for a lot less money?

Re:How much for the 60 mph version? (2, Informative)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925861)

We've got a 75MPH version. We call it I10.

Re:How much for the 60 mph version? (0)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925991)

And I don't feel like paying billions for some stupid 8-lane highway in the southeast I personally never drive on. Surely we could save a lot of money if we only built a 4-lane highway? 8 lanes is a lot of luxury for those drivers, surely they can sit in traffic for an extra hour during their commute each day.

Democracy is a bitch, ain't it?

Can't they just get a 60 mph version for a lot less money?

Yes, but if it's not high-speed, they won't get as many riders, so it may be even less fiscally feasible.

You've gotta love solar power... (2, Insightful)

DavidChristopher (633902) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925597)

... as long as you live in the desert. This is a great idea, if they pull it off. Clean, reliable, and fast as hell. While it's not (well, probably not) feasible in 'regular' climates (like Ontario, or the prairies, or even the mid west) where sunshine isn't a guarantee - it could be a step in the right direction for self-sufficient transportation infrastructure. When you push the technology envelope, everyone wins.

Now, how long before bureaucracy clouds over this idea?

Monorail, Monorail, Monorail (2, Informative)

rshol (746340) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925609)

(np)

Re:Monorail, Monorail, Monorail (4, Funny)

digitalgiblet (530309) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925715)

Solar powered train is more of a Shelbyville idea...

Solar! (5, Funny)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925615)

traveling from Tuscon to Phoenix in 30 minutes flat

It is estimated that the journey at night could take up to 12 hours.

Re:Solar! (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926201)

Not if everyone has to get out and push the train!

110 megawatts? I prefer to call that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27925617)

.11 gigawatts... pronounces as .11 jiggawatts.

Monorail! (4, Funny)

bughunter (10093) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925625)

Lyle Lanley:  Well, sir, there's nothing on earth
              Like a genuine,
              Bona fide,
              Electrified,
              Six-car
              Monorail! ...
              What'd I say?
Ned Flanders: Monorail!
Lyle Lanley:  What's it called?
Patty+Selma:  Monorail!
Lyle Lanley:  That's right!  Monorail!

[http://www.snpp.com/episodes/9F10.html]

Scam (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27925677)

This just smells like a scam trying to make money off of bailout money.

From the Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] page:

Extensive trials using the Fastech 360 test trains has shown that operation at 360 km/h (224 mph) is not currently feasible due to problems of noise pollution, overhead wire wear, and braking distances. This may indicate the limits to railed Shinkansen technology, and eventually maglev or another technology will need to replace it.

So forget about the solar panel aspect (that's probably just there to get the tax breaks & incentives in the new budget). The train tech itself is not going to go that fast. Something tells me they also don't account for emabrkment/disembarkment of passengers & luggage in that 30 minute time estimate.

Yes it would be faster than by car. However, the complete overselling of this & that it's two guys asking for large sums of money up front for "feasability" studies just smells like a scam.

Just get Lyle Lanley to build you a monorail instead - it'll give you the same result.

Trains faster than the car? You're kidding right? (4, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926067)

Yes it would be faster than by car.

It would? From where to where?

Last time I looked, trains could only travel on tracks.

Trains run to schedules, which means you have to wait for them.
Trains only stop at stations which means you have to travel to and from the station.

Trains are only faster than a car under the conditions that

1: you live near a station and
2: want to travel near to another station,
3: without having to change between lines or other modes of transport.

There's a very good reason people have embraced the car with open arms.

Re:Scam (1)

debrain (29228) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926273)

So forget about the solar panel aspect (that's probably just there to get the tax breaks & incentives in the new budget). The train tech itself is not going to go that fast. Something tells me they also don't account for emabrkment/disembarkment of passengers & luggage in that 30 minute time estimate.

I agree that solar panel estimates are unlikely to power this train, at least with present-day solar panel technology. I don't see any evidence that the train technology isn't available, and I don't think train stop-time is an enormous consideration (though I doubt it was not a factor when they said "30 minutes" to from departure to arrival).

As the link you provided indicates, the biggest complaint about train speed in Japan is the noise generated. This noise is generated predominantly when the trains exit the tunnels. There are no mountains in Arizona on this route (as far as I can see), and certainly none with habitation around them, ergo no tunnel-exit noise.

A better comparison may be the TGV. From Wikipedia: TGV [wikipedia.org]

A TGV test train set the record for the fastest wheeled train, reaching 574.8 km/h (357 mph) on 3 April 2007,[1][2] and a TGV service holds the record for the fastest scheduled rail journey with a start to stop average speed of 279.4 km/h.

In my experiences traveling by train in both Japan and France, neither generally has wait times of over 30 minutes at the major terminals. Alighting and boarding rarely take more than a couple minutes each, even if the train empties - there are many doors. I suppose the obesity in the southern USA is a relevant factor in considering stop times for the trains. Japan and France don't have anything even remotely close to the same number of morbidly obese potential passengers as the southern USA has. Even so, how much would that affect the time to get on and off of a train? I couldn't say.

I'd say the train technology is certainly available, and the alighting and board time really isn't an enormous concern. I agree with concerns about the efficacy of solar panels, though. A secondary concern is the availability of local transit upon arrival, either "per diem" cars or public transit. Hopefully train terminals would spur high density destinations with good public transit.

How much?!?! (3, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925691)

1.21 gigawatts?!?! What?!?!?

The train would require 110 megawatts of electricity

Oh. Well that makes tons more sense. In fact, let me just get out these multi-megawatt solar panels I have sitting around...

Seriously, this is a rather larger undertaking. Generating 110 megawatts (per train, I imagine?) is no small feat. Especially for solar paneling. That's usually the type of thing you need your own power plant for. It's a nice idea, but you'll forgive me if I'm a bit skeptical of:

a) Solar Power only above the rails being effective
b) The practicality of any design that relied only on the rail footprint
c) The realistic cost benefits of this idea
d) That maintenance costs won't be overwhelming
e) That consumer demand for service won't result in the train operating during periods where it will be forced to pull from the grid. Frustratingly, very likely during the hours when demand is high for home lighting/heating/etc.

Re:How much?!?! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27925915)

Just a stab in the dark, but I'm guessing Arizona houses won't be neededing a lot of heating power.

Re:How much?!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27925935)

Are you familiar with the Phoenix/Tucson region? There's plenty of sunlight, even if they did need to store some energy in batteries for later.

Re:How much?!?! (1)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925993)

Don't worry, it's just a scam. It's in the summary ;) This "corporation" is two guys asking the cities involved for $35K each to do a "feasibility study" that will almost certainly end in a result of "not feasible, sorry" ;)

Re:How much?!?! (4, Informative)

skeptikos (220748) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926019)

110 MW per train sounds like too much. The typical power output for a locomotive seems to be roughly 5000 HP (http://www.ecoworld.com/blog/2008/05/23/ges-4500-hp-locomotive/). Even if we double that number, since it a high speed train, 10 000 HP = 7 456 998 watts. It is only 7.5 MW. You could power more than 10 of these suckers with 110MW

Well $27B buys you a lot of panels... (3, Interesting)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926113)

Hmm. Perhaps.

I have 48 solar panels on my roof in northern CA. Yesterday they generated 45 kWH between them. Figure that the middle of the desert is actually a better solar energy source and bump that to (say) 60, and the multiplier becomes 110,000 / 60 = ~1800 times as many panels or 86,400.

There's ~116 miles between Tucson and Phoenix. That's ~750 panels per mile. It's a lot, but it's not unfeasible.

I'm not saying your concerns aren't valid, I think some of them are, but the energy side could be made to work. They ought to get a significant discount on the price (~ $1k/panel) if they're ordering circa 90,000 of them, which should help their cost-benefit analysis :)

Simon.

Re:Well $27B buys you a lot of panels... (3, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926377)

I have 48 solar panels on my roof in northern CA. Yesterday they generated 45 kWH between them. Figure that the middle of the desert is actually a better solar energy source and bump that to (say) 60, and the multiplier becomes 110,000 / 60 = ~1800 times as many panels or 86,400.

There's ~116 miles between Tucson and Phoenix. That's ~750 panels per mile. It's a lot, but it's not unfeasible.

You're magically converting from MW to kWh. Your 48 panels generated 45 kWh in about 12 hours, which is a lot closer to 3kW than it is to 60 kW. 110,000 / 3 = ~36000 times as many panels, or 1,728,000 of the things.

Note also that you need to be able to handle generating that power in winter also, when you have rather fewer than 12 hours of sunlight per day, even ignoring weather.

It's not infeasible. Not even close. But it's not a trivial investment, and unless there are going to be enough customers to pay for the thing, it'll never be built.

Re:How much?!?! (4, Insightful)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926233)

I work for a train company, and not only are most of your concerns accurate there are quite a few *more* even.

f) Infrastructure. To get to those speeds you need to replace the entire rail system. Concrete railroad ties, carefully planned/banked track, etc.
g) HVAC on the trains themselves. Cooling is massive.
h-z) If I wanted to go on.

Maintenence costs would be prohibitive. Guaranteed. But if they can manage federal funding (they won't) they will soak up a never-ending stream of cash for upkeep.

This is one of the dumber ideas I have seen make this much press this quickly. People are so blindly interested in anything billed as "eco" or "green or "solar" that common sense goes right out the window. Trains are about as efficient a means of transportation as possible *right now*, how about going after the real areas of waste and inefficiency?

Re:How much?!?! (4, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926353)

Seriously, this is a rather larger undertaking. Generating 110 megawatts (per train, I imagine?) is no small feat. Especially for solar paneling. That's usually the type of thing you need your own power plant for. It's a nice idea, but you'll forgive me if I'm a bit skeptical of:

a) Solar Power only above the rails being effective
b) The practicality of any design that relied only on the rail footprint

Hmm, well let's do a little napkin engineering here and guestimate the footprint needed. Let's start with standard 1000 W/m^2 solar irradiance, and assume 2m wide cells over the rails. With that you'd need solar panels over 55km of track. Easy-peasy. Now assume inexpensive thin film cells at about 10% efficiency -- then you need 550km of over-rail cells. Which is longer than the rail from Phoenix to Tuscon would be.

If they could afford 30% efficient cells, then it'd be 183km, which is about the distance from Tuscon to Phoenix. For one car. If they have a pair of tracks, then they could have one going in both directions at all times. Is one train every 30 mins, for a 30 min trip, reasonable? Doesn't seem any worse than normal trains today. So I'm going to call this one barely feasible, physically. Economically? That's a whole 'nother ball of wax.

How long would it take if it left from... (1)

Palmateer (1533975) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925717)

Chicago?

Solar Bullet LLC?? (4, Funny)

Joe Snipe (224958) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925727)

Solar Bullet LLC has already built trains in Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, and by golly it put them on the map! [snpp.com]

``Solar power. When will people learn?'' (0)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925735)

``Solar power. When will people learn?''

Same idea (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27925745)

I had the same idea a few years ago, except mine was along the lines of a highway, with the power going to cars. The road would be set up like a giant slot car track and the pannels would provide power to it. As a bonus the solar panels would provide shade to reduce AC use and the structure would be useable for running data lines between cities.

Canada came to similiar conclusions in research (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925755)

In some recent scientific papers on the subject of energy and transportation, Canada - which gets less solar radiation - found that using wind power to power large fuel cell train engine plants (thru stored H2O broken by electrolysis) was the most cost-effective in a 30-100 year time frame.

But in Arizona, the cost factors and yields for solar make a solar train a far more economical method.

Trains use surprisingly little energy to move large masses medium to long distances.

Re:Canada came to similiar conclusions in research (1)

ausekilis (1513635) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925823)

All they really need to do is say the technology is already in use and widely accepted in Japan. That gets them every time.

Dumb idea. (5, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925789)

Arizona is not fit for human habitation. Best plan for Arizona is for all the people of Arizona to move to places like Pittsburgh, where there is plenty of water and nice homes for dirt cheap prices. That will be lot more green, enviro friendly etc etc than this nonsense about 220 mph train that connects two points in the desert.

never going to happen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27925801)

High speed rail is great but there is no way it's going anywhere in the US in the near future. It's too expensive and it's not like the US govt is rolling in the dough...(with 1.8 Trillion dollars deficit this year.)

Sounds like... (0, Redundant)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925865)

Lyle Lanley: Well, sir, there's nothing on earth
Like a genuine,
Bona fide,
Electrified,
Six-car
Monorail!
What'd I say?
Ned Flanders: Monorail!
Lyle Lanley: What's it called?
Patty+Selma: Monorail!
Lyle Lanley: That's right! Monorail!
[crowd chants `Monorail' softly and rhythmically]
Miss Hoover: I hear those things are awfully loud...
Lyle Lanley: It glides as softly as a cloud.
Apu: Is there a chance the track could bend?
Lyle Lanley: Not on your life, my Hindu friend.
Barney: What about us brain-dead slobs?
Lyle Lanley: You'll be given cushy jobs.
Abe: Were you sent here by the devil?
Lyle Lanley: No, good sir, I'm on the level.
Wiggum: The ring came off my pudding can.
Lyle Lanley: Take my pen knife, my good man.
I swear it's Springfield's only choice...
Throw up your hands and raise your voice!
All: Monorail!
Lyle Lanley: What's it called?
All: Monorail!
Lyle Lanley: Once again...
All: Monorail!
Marge: But Main Street's still all cracked and broken...
Bart: Sorry, Mom, the mob has spoken!
All: Monorail!
Monorail!
Monorail!
[big finish]
Monorail!
Homer: Mono... D'oh!

World of tomorrow (3, Funny)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925869)

Regardless of the idea, I loved the 1950's style "World of Tomorow" style rendering [inhabitat.com] they did. Take that you kids and your fancy CAD packages and 3D modeling.

Some basic economics (4, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925885)

Assume that the cost of the thing is financed like a 30 year mortgage. Just as a rule of thumb, with interest we're talking about a total of 54 billion. Just to satisfy construction costs, a need to make a payment of 150 million a month, every month. To make that payment, we need to have 5 million dollars a day, ever day. To get that, assuming a $10 a day per person spend, you'll have to have 500,000 riders a day, every day, traveling across Arizona. Is that economical? Are there THAT many people riding back and forth? I think this project is a stretch.

Re:Some basic economics (3, Insightful)

doctorcisco (815096) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926207)

It's not that simple, because your analysis ignores the public cost of people driving.

Already now, I-10 is apparently gridlocked much of the time. This is a high-growth area. Assume that the number of people wanting to make this trip doubles over the next 30 years.

Without rail or some kind of public transit, taxpayers will need to more than double the carrying capacity of I-10 (presumably the goal isn't to have twice as many people in the same gridlock as today.)

What's the PUBLIC cost of doubling the size of I-10, compared to the PUBLIC cost of the train?

The cost-benefit analysis is much different when you stop assuming that the I-10 you need in 30 years will be free, just because a smaller-than-needed version already exists.

doctorcisco

Does it need to be solar? (1)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 5 years ago | (#27925887)

Couldn't we just built regular trains with present technology? I think that would make a big difference by itself, aye?

Sounds suspiciously like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27925971)

the Springfield monorail in the Simpsons.

Not quite... (1)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926017)

I work for one of the larger light-rail/commuter train companies and we already have a line in PHX... I think this idea is a total pie-in-the-sky dream only. Now maybe working in conjunction with what we already have in place to supply all or most of the energy running the existing system from solar would be a better use of money and resources.

Trains are already efficient and the sheer amount of subsystems they are not accounting for is staggering. Best of luck to them, I'm not fearing for my job.

I can see the ads (1)

elashish14 (1302231) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926035)

30 Minutes Tuscon to Phoenix*!

*Depends on forecast. Results not guaranteed. 45 Minutes in overcast. 60 during eclipse

Re:I can see the ads (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926291)

I'm taking the midnight train to Georgia. NOT!

Monorail, monorail, MONORAIL! *jazz hands* (1)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926055)

But what if the track could bend?

Are these guys for real? (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926083)

Lessee. We have 2 guys who want to build a $27B railroad, and they don't have the $35K for a feasibility study?

WTF?

All they have is an idea. There is no way that they can be for real. I don't doubt they're sincere, but it is going to take some real money to get moving.

This is needed. (1)

Spacepup (695354) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926105)

Living in Tucson...
This train NEEDS to happen. Phoenix has most of the tech jobs but (if you want to buy) little housing that is affordable. Many of my friends live in places like Casa Grande, Tucson, or little stops in between. The interstate between Tucson and Phoenix is always crowded, even late at night, and very dangerous during the monsoon season. While I don't see half a million people riding this train a day, I could easily see 250,000 a day making trips on it. Especially if it went to the phoenix airport and especially during tourist season.

Wrong route - Vegas baby! (1)

markdowling (448297) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926111)

Flagstaff and Tucson will get zero publicity but a HS line with an ending in Vegas will get the newspapermen slavering over the chance to ride the first train - for the good of their readership, obviously...

More seriously, if it was planned as an extension of the SoCal-Vegas train maybe the idea might go somewhere (like the Phoenix Coyotes, real soon now)

Re:Wrong route - Vegas baby! (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926309)

You know there is no proposed SoCal-Vegas HS rail line right? Look at the plan [thinkprogress.org] . It's a myth that Republicans are trying to use to bash Harry Reid with.

A few minor things on the money (1)

earlymon (1116185) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926153)

From TFS, I was thinking these guys were porksters doing a small town shakedown for "studies" - not uncommon in Western states. However, as it turns out (from TFA), what they're up against is that the corridor in question is not yet approved for high-speed rail transit - so, asking each whistle-stop to kick in $5k now doesn't sound so bad.

Also - TFS says the project will cost $27B - TFA notes that that is only for the initial phase. The idea that transportation across a desert with a few whistle stops is going to cost a significant portion-equivalent of our B-2 fleet is quite unnerving.

Anyone think of Brockway... (1)

nweaver (113078) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926173)

Anyone think of Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haberbrook's monorails?!?

If it doesn't have a catchy "Monorail" song, its not worth public funds...

Barely, just, feasible. (1)

Ioldanach (88584) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926175)

I'm a little unclear on the requirements of the train, it says it needs 110 megawatts but not for how long, how many trains, etc. At its most conservative, I'll specify that the trains will each require 110 megawatts per run, and 11 runs are made per day. (Because that means I get to work with the magic 1.21 gigawatts number, which is just funny.) Ok, so, we need 1.21 GWH/day. Solar insolation in the Phoenix area averages 5.78 at its minimum, so we'll need about 210 MW of solar panels.

Taking a reasonably competitive Kyocera KD180GX-LP 180W panel as an example, at $688 each, retail, we'd need about 1.2 million of them. They're 52.8"x39", stringing them 6 wide on their long length we need a swath of land 27 feet wide, and we have a swath to work with 116 miles long. That will fit 1.13 million panels, generating a total of 1.18 GWH/day, at a cost of $778 million.

Though, I should point out, if you're already building the infrastructure to suspend the panels and you have a swath of land like that, you're probably much better off going with a thermal solar [wikipedia.org] system. Incidentally I don't see the point in suspending the panels in the air. They should just be on the ground, and the tracks should poke up between them. You're not going to get much loss from the train going over the panel because the train is tiny compared to the size of your aggregate panels. Much less installation cost, too. For the thermal solar design, you can make mirror strips in a fresnel arrangement all aimed at a common heat sink containing your circulating fluid. You'd only need to suspend your heat sink, then.

Why so much? (1)

superdana (1211758) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926209)

I'm puzzled by the 110 megawatts figure. Shinkansen run at comparable speeds (180 MPH) and use less than 20 megawatts. Surely the 22% increase in speed doesn't account for the 550% increase in power!

Re:Why so much? (1)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926283)

Which is why this is such a farce to anyone familiar with trains. I just wish places like /. could resist "news" like this that hits all the other less intelligent sites on teh toobz.

Unfortunately... (3, Insightful)

agnosticanarch (105861) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926225)

If you want the train to take you past Topeka, you have to beat it in a riddle contest. One sure-fire winning riddle:

How did the dead baby cross the road?

Answer: It was stapled to the chicken!!

Now who wants to ride on Blaine, the insane train? I know I do!

~AA

wow (1)

ScubaS (600042) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926241)

$35,000 of tax payer dollars to determine if it is a good idea?

Wait, What? (1)

Icegryphon (715550) | more than 5 years ago | (#27926295)

It would only be one way traffic, There is nothing in Tuscon to begin with worth dirt.

Not even close to reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27926301)

worked in the Solar Business in Tucson, while going to college designing / working with solar systems, this plan has no basis in reality. Any engineer would know that. A, panels produce DC not AC the wire gauge size to carry DC would be tremendous, and powerloss over distance would make this impossible. Unless of course you invert it to AC, in which cause you loose about 30%. Also what about winter / non sunny days you can only really plan for 5.3 solar hours. You have to use this number when designing a system since thats the least amount of sun you will get in the winter and i am assuming this thing will run year around.. So there is no way around battery storage. Once you get into this you have another 20% penality and huge amount of expensive,heavy and toxic batteries. So to run this system 24/7 you would need ~8 gigawatts of panels to charge the batteries and to offset efficency losses. Solar panels are about 3-7 dollars a watt.

Instead create a grid tie system http://www.tucsonelectric.com/Green/Home/Solar/electric.asp [tucsonelectric.com] and use that offset the draw of a realistic mass transit system.
These guys are scam artists.

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