Renewable rail power
Riding Sunbeams is a unique organisation Ricardo are supporting that explores the potential for solar power as an alternative energy source for the rail sector.
During 2019, around 100 solar panels were installed next to the trackside in Hampshire funded by Innovate UK. This is the first time in the world that renewable zero-carbon electricity had been directly supplied to an adjacent rail line.
The solar test unit, of just under 40kWp, connects to an ancillary transformer on the traction system of Network Rail's Wessex Route , with the energy captured from the panel array used to help power trains passing through Aldershot as well as supplying signalling and lights.
Although it could be said that railways already make use of solar power as it is a contributor to the UK's grid - this is the first time solar panels have been directly connected to the railway.
The project aims to show that lineside solar electricity could prove cheaper than energy from the grid and could provide as much as 10% of the southern region's power needs in the UK.
Solar rail pioneer Riding Sunbeams is currently working with Ricardo, Thrive Renewables, Cuckmere Community Solar and Network Rail to deliver the UK's first full-scale solar traction farm at a site in East Sussex, having secured a further £2.5 million of funding from the UK government's post-covid stimulus package, the Getting Building Fund.