New funding announced for ‘Riding Sunbeams’ solar rail project

New funding announced for ‘Riding Sunbeams’ solar rail project
13 August 2020

The Riding Sunbeams project – in which Ricardo is a partner – has won a further £2.5 million of funding to develop solar power for railways.

As part of the UK government’s £900 million Getting Building Fund, the South East Local Enterprise Partnerships (SELEP) won £85 million to share between projects across the region, including the collaborative Riding Sunbeams initiative to supply rail networks with clean energy from solar farms.

Colin McNaught, project director for Ricardo commented: “We welcome the additional funding announced for the Riding Sunbeams project, which seeks to open up opportunities to utilize renewable energy technologies in ways not previously possible on the railway. This work has the potential to provide significant opportunities in enabling rail infrastructure operators and governments to deliver the environmental changes needed for a ‘net zero’ future.”

Towards a solar powered railway

Riding Sunbeams launched in 2019 with a test unit comprised of around 100 solar panels installed at trackside in Aldershot, Hampshire, thus becoming the first in the world to directly supply renewable zero-carbon electricity to an adjacent railway line.

The 30kWp solar test unit connects to an ancillary transformer on Network Rail’s Wessex Route’s traction system, with energy captured from the panel array used to power signalling and lights.

Ricardo’s energy and rail divisions supported Riding Sunbeams Ltd by bringing their experience in power generation research and connecting and monitoring renewable energy technologies into existing infrastructure. In June 2020 the project secured £400,000 of funding from the UK’s Department for Transport and Innovate UK’s First of A Kind programme to help further develop the demonstrator project.