A solar array in Aldershot, Hampshire, UK is creating waves as the world’s first fully solar-powered railway line. People travelling by rail between London, Waterloo, and Weymouth will benefit from the Network Rail’s pilot scheme.
About 100 solar panels at the trackside site will supply renewable electricity on Network Rail’s Wessex route to power the signals and lights. The solar breakthrough aligns with Network Rail’s plans to spend billions of pounds electrifying rail lines, which could cut costs of running trains on diesel. The development would also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and costs for Network Rail.
The Aldershot project would bypass the electricity grid entirely to plug directly into the railway’s traction system. Meanwhile, Network Rail hopes to use the scheme, developed by Imperial College, London and the charity 10:10 Climate Action to solar charge its rail lines across the country.
In the context, Stuart Kistruck, director for Network Rail’s Wessex route said that they were being ambitious with the technology and want to roll it out further across the network if the pilot project proves to be successful. This would help them construct and retrofit a greener and better railway for the wider public.
The research team working behind the project, called Riding Sunbeams, has estimated that solar power could be used in around 20% of the Merseyrail network in Liverpool, and 15% of commuter routes in Kent, Sussex, and Wessex.
In fact, by the end of 2020, the group’s director Leo Murray expressed hopes to build and connect the world’s first-ever full-scale community and commuter owned solar farms to power UK’s railways.