With the aim to leverage renewable energy and reduce its carbon footprint, Network Rail has collaborated with Riding Sunbeams to use solar panels to power trains in south-east England and launched the first pilot scheme.
On a sunny Wednesday morning on 17 July, commuters passing through Aldershot station witnessed something unusual on the platform. Passengers were greeted by representatives from South Western Railway service and Riding Sunbeams, a project set up to deliver solar powered railways, who are giving out information about a pilot being trialled in the south-east of England.
In this scheme, the trains will be powered by solar panels directly from the railway system as opposed to distributing it to the grid. Existing equipment – repurposed from outside the rail sector – will be used to connect solar to the high voltage system that supplies dc rail traction substations with power from the grid. Solar panels will be erected along the network, rather than on the trains themselves, and feed power directly to trains via built for purpose substations and storage facilities.