World first for solar powered rail

This morning the world’s first solar panel array connected directly to a railway went live in Aldershot. Riding Sunbeams’ ‘First Light’ demonstrator project is a collaboration between climate change charity 10:10, Community Energy South and Network Rail.
The array of 100 solar panels, with an output of 30kW is connected to an ancillary transformer powering  signalling and lights. The team are also gathering electricity demand data from six potential sites in the south of England, which will enable the installation of much larger solar arrays to directly power trains. By the end of 2020, Riding Sunbeams hope to build and connect the world’s first ever full-scale community- and commuter-owned solar farm to UK railways.

Funded by the Department for Transport through the First of a Kind Round 2 competition, the project was born out of an earlier study by 10:10 Climate Action and Imperial College London’s Energy Futures Lab  which showed that connecting solar panels directly to rail, tube and tram networks could meet a significant share of their electricity needs. The research also found that this power could be supplied at a lower cost than electricity supplied via the grid today – without the need for public subsidy.

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