Solar rail
Aldershot GO Station - Image credit: Burlington Laslovarga/Wikimedia

A new UK project in Aldershot is exploring the potential of solar-powered railway.

The Riding Sunbeams project is a collaboration between UK  National Rail, climate charity 10:10, and Community Energy South.

The project is funded by Innovate UK and the country’s Department for Transport.

135 solar panels are being installed near the station, and operation is expected to begin in August 2019, supplying power directly to the railway, and bypassing the grid.

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A 2017 study by Imperial College London’s Energy Future Lab and 10:10 determined that solar could provide approximately 10% of electricity required to power train routes through a direct connection to railway infrastructure.

Should the trial prove successful, South Western Railways (SWR) could roll out larger projects, and though SWR has reduced its carbon emissions by 33%, it plans to reduce emissions to an overall 60% over a five-year period.

Amelia Woodley, head of sustainability at South Western Railway, said there’s “never been a better time” to partner with Riding Sunbeams due to the passing of the net-zero emissions legislation.

Ollie Pendered, executive director of Riding Sunbeams, said: “We are very excited to be installing the world’s first project to directly power railway lines with solar energy at Aldershot station. We hope this pilot scheme paves the way for the railway industry, and the UK, becoming zero-carbon.”