Solar Panel stretch, via Istock

The future is bright for solar powered rail

The UK’s rail sector represents the greenest form of public transport available, often seen as the most sustainable method for mass travel and commuting. In a further stride towards a greener, more sustainable railway for Britain, Network Rail have announced an agreement with EDF Renewables UK which will see railway stations, offices and depots across the nation powered through solar energy.

The new partnership will see 49.9 MW of solar energy, enough to power 20,000 homes, provided through EDF Renewables UK’s Bloy’s Grove solar farm between Swainsthorpe and Mulbarton in Norfolk. This energy will be enough to cover 15% of Network Rail’s annual consumption of non-traction energy. This acts as strong progression towards Network Rail’s commitment to sourcing 100% of non-traction energy from renewable sources by 2030 as part of its Environmental Sustainability Strategy.

Jo Lewington, Network Rail’s chief environment and sustainability officer, said:

 “Rail is already in a strong position in terms of its green credentials, but it’s crucial that we do everything we can as a business to improve air quality, minimise our use of fossil fuels, and transition to an industry powered by green, renewable, low-carbon energy.

“Our vision is to serve the nation with the cleanest, greenest form of public transport and this agreement marks another important step towards achieving our aims.”

Matthieu Hue, CEO of EDF Renewables UK, said:

“We are very pleased to be working with Network Rail to help them on their journey to decarbonisation. This project shows the ability of EDF Renewables UK to provide diverse solutions for customers in terms of low-cost renewable electricity.

The local community will benefit from this partnership as EDF will collaborate closely with the council to plan the next stages for construction and operation of the solar farm. The company are set to build, own, and operate the solar farm throughout the project, whilst also offering a £20,000 per year community benefit fund which starts when the site is operational. The biodiversity on site will also be enhanced as a community orchard will be implemented with a team to consult with local residents on these matters.

Rail Minister Wendy Morton said:

“Our railway has long been the backbone of travel across the UK and, as one of the greenest forms of transport, it is set to play a central role in slashing emissions and helping us achieve our world-leading decarbonisation goals.

“This first of its kind agreement is a huge moment not just for Network Rail but the rail industry as a whole, setting in motion a journey which will see Britain’s favourite transport become even greener, cleaner and more sustainable.”

With the Government’s ambition to achieve carbon net-zero by 2050, a deal of this nature represents a huge progression for the rail sector, being something worthy of emulation wherever possible. The transformation of the rail sector through more sustainable energy sources will also attract more people to return to rail usage for their general travels, aiding in the post-pandemic economic recovery.

Want to know more about the opportunities to become a key supplier to the UK rail industry? Attend TransCityRail and access an exclusive marketplace of buyers from Network Rail, HS2, Train Operators, Major Contractors, and all other tiers of the supply chain. For more information and to secure your place click here


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