Solar power could make up “significant share” of railway’s energy demand

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Solar panels could be used to power a sizeable chunk of Britain’s DC electric rail network, a new report has suggested.

Climate change charity 10:10 and Imperial College London’s Energy Futures Lab looked at the feasibility of using solar panels alongside the track to directly power the railway.

The report claims that 15 per cent of the commuter network in Kent, Sussex and Wessex could be powered directly by 200 small solar farms. It suggested that solar panels could also supply 6 per cent of the London Underground’s energy requirements and 20 per cent of the Merseyrail network.

The research team at 10:10 and Energy Futures Lab believe the renewable energy produced by trackside solar panels could also be supplied at a lower cost than power from the grid and “meet a significant share” of the electricity needs of rail, metro and tram networks up and down the country.

Funding is now being sought to develop a prototype, which will be trialled at “six to 10 community – and commuter-owned pilot projects”.


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Leo Murray, director of strategy at 10:10 Climate Action, said: “We are proud to be contributing to the kind of innovation now needed to support solar in the UK.

“Being able to sell cheap electricity directly to our largest power consumer could throw a vital lifeline to the nation’s favourite energy source, and the plunging costs of solar mean that it should actually be cheaper to run trains on solar-powered routes in the future.

“We are particularly excited about bringing commuters together with local communities to crowdfund investment in the first wave of these pioneering new solar projects.”

Professor Tim Green, director at Energy Futures Lab, added: “I believe that decarbonising our transport sector is key to meeting the UK’s climate targets. The Renewable Traction Power project demonstrates that we can harness solar to make this a reality for our train network.

“I think that this project, with partners from industry, non-governmental organisations and academia, demonstrates that the best way to tackle many of the issues we face is through collaboration and leveraging expertise.”