Shining example: will solar PV power the railways of the future? How will our expanding railways be powered in the future? And are electrified networks powered solely by renewable energy the answer? Demand for traction power on the world’s rail networks is escalating and many traditional grids are at full, or nearly full capacity. Here’s a look to a groundbreaking project using solar panels fitted to tracks and innovations being trialled in India.
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In 2014 in Bern, Switzerland, to relatively little fanfare, Bankset Energy installed the first-ever solar panel on a rail track, setting in motion a project that could transform how railways around the world are powered – and deliver gigawatts (GW) of clean energy back into the grid and people’s homes.
Four years later, in June 2018, Bankset, a renewables investor based in London, began construction work on the installation of 200MW of solar PV panels on 1,000km of rail track in Saxony, Germany.
The panels made from silicone and aluminium can be attached to the existing concrete, wood and steel sleepers that make up many of the world’s rail networks, without the need for alterations.
Bankrolled by an initial €10m funding package from Bankset, and European, US and Chinese partners and a recent $2.1bn share offering, the company has extended the trial to twelve countries including the US, the UK, China and Australia, and is targeting a further 165 – which it claims would constitute the largest solar installation ever undertaken.