Shortlisted in the GGA Sustainable Transport category in 2018 and designated ‘One to Watch’, solar panel innovator Riding Sunbeams is paving the way for solar-powered trains in Hampshire. A pilot scheme has recently coming into operation on Network Rail’s Wessex route.
The 30kW site comprises around 100 solar panels which will supply renewable electricity to power the signalling and lights on the route.
While solar panels are already used to power the operations of train stations – including Blackfriars in central London- the Aldershot project is the first time a solar array will bypass the electricity grid to plug directly into a railway’s “traction” system.
According to a report in The Guardian, Riding Sunbeams estimates that solar could power 20% of the Merseyrail network in Liverpool, as well as 15% of commuter routes in Kent, Sussex and Wessex. They also say there is also scope for solar trams in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham, London and Manchester.
Leo Murray, the director of Riding Sunbeams, told the newspaper that future projects across the UK could be community-owned, and pay back benefits to local community funds. By the end of 2020, Riding Sunbeams hopes to build and connect the world’s first-ever full-scale community- and commuter-owned solar farm to UK railways. “Matchmaking the UK’s biggest electricity user, the railways, with the nation’s favourite energy source, solar power, looks like the start of the perfect relationship,” he said.