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Aldershot railway line to be directly powered by solar farm in ‘world first’

Network Rail pilot scheme will see the world’s first solar farm to power a railway line directly in Aldershot, in Hampshire.

Around 100 solar panels have been installed at a site trackside, and will supply renewable electricity to power the signalling and lights on Network Rail’s Wessex route.

It is being used as a pilot scheme which, should this initial 30kW test prove a success, pave the way for a larger project capable of directly powering the trains operating on the route from next year.

Network Rail has spent billions of pounds electrifying rail lines to avoid the running of environmentally-damaging diesel trains, and now the use of trackside solar panels could help further reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and costs.

READ MORE: SWR announce solar-powered rail project

READ MORE: Trackside solar panels could save Network Rail £30m a year

Solar panels are nothing new within the rail industry, with a significant number of stations around the country employing them to power their operations. However, the trackside solar farm in Aldershot is the first time, not just in the UK but worldwide, that a solar array will be plugged directly into the railway’s “traction” system, bypassing the electricity grid.

Stuart Kistruck, a director for Network Rail’s Wessex route, said: “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.”

The research team behind the Aldershot project estimates that solar energy could power 20% of the Merseyrail network in Liverpool and around 15% of commuter routes in Kent, Sussex and Wessex.

They added that there is also scope for solar trams in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham, London and Manchester.


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