The train line between London and Weymouth is set to be the first in the world to be solar-powered, as a solar farm is due to be plugged in to the track today.
Around 100 solar panels next to the tracks near Aldershot will power the signalling and lights system on Network Rail’s Wessex route, supplying the line with renewable electricity. If the pilot scheme is successful then a larger solar farm will be built to power the trains themselves from next year.
Although solar panels have already been used to power certain train stations in the UK, the project in Aldershot will be the first to power the system directly without using the electricity grid. Network Rail has ambitions to power railways across the country if the scheme is a success. The project has been developed by Imperial College London and the climate change charity 10:10.
“We are proud to be working with 10:10, Community Energy South and our other stakeholders to deliver this exciting world-first project on the Wessex route,” said Stuart Kistruck, a director for Network Rail’s Wessex Route. “We have ambitions to roll this technology out further across the network should this demonstrator project prove successful so we can deliver a greener, better railway for our passengers and the wider public.”
Leo Murray, co-founder and director of strategy at 10:10, said: “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. Helping to get the railways off fossil fuels in this way will cut running costs and benefit local communities at the same time as helping to tackle the climate crisis.”
There are other examples of solar powered trains around the world, but this will be the first that uses a trackside solar farm. However, similar plans are underway in India, which already has hundreds of trains that are powered by solar panels on their roofs. Just last month, Indian Railways said it wants to be the first 100% green railway network in the world in just 10 years’ time.