This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

August 14, 2002

Trains and Biodiesel Combined in Distributed Generation Test

Here's a train story that's just going nowhere: California's Sierra Railroad Company plans to park 48 surplus locomotives and use them as power sources over the next five years. Locomotives generate a lot of electricity, so the company will electrically connect the 48 idled locomotives to act as a small power plant, providing extra power to California during peak periods of electrical use. According to the company, the trains will produce enough electricity to light 100,000 homes. The company calls the proposal "PowerTrainUSA," and expects to operate the trains for about 1,000 hours per year for the next five years. To avoid belching tons of diesel exhaust into the air while the trains are running, the company will fuel the locomotives with biodiesel fuel from World Energy, burning about 7.5 million gallons of biodiesel each year. See the World Energy press release.

Along with the potential power benefits of the project, Sierra Railroad sees it as a unique opportunity to study locomotive air emissions, which (believe it or not) are unregulated in California. The company intends to test emissions control technologies developed for other types of diesel engines to see if they can be adapted for locomotives. See PowerTrainUSA on the Sierra Railroad Web site.