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World's first solar-powered train line is turned on in Hampshire with 100 panels providing energy for lights and signalling systems Update: 26-08-2019
A solar farm of more than 100 panels in Hampshire has been plugged into a stretch of track in Hampshire in a world first.

The stretch of track near Aldershot was today receiving 30kW from a nearby solar farm. 

The renewable electricity will be used to provide energy for the signalling and lights on Network Rail's Wessex route.

It is hoped it can be the first step in establishing the necessary infrastructure for trains that are directly powered by solar energy. 

Network Rail is making a big push to move away from diesel-powered locomotives and is electrifying the rails to reduce its carbon footprint. 

The pilot scheme is the brainchild of a joint project between the charity 10:10 Climate Action and Imperial College London.

The research team behind it, dubbed Riding Sunbeams, believes it to be the first example of solar energy being used to power train lines anywhere in the world. 

Leo Murray, Director of Riding Sunbeams, said: 'Matchmaking the UK's biggest electricity user, the railways, with the nation's favourite energy source, solar power, looks like the start of the perfect relationship. 

'Helping to get the railways off fossil fuels in this way will cut running costs and benefit local communities at the same time as helping to tackle the climate crisis.'

Stuart Kistruck, director of route asset management for Network Rail's Wessex Route, said: 'We are proud to be working with 10:10, Community Energy South and our other stakeholders to deliver this exciting world-first project on the Wessex route.

'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.'

By the end of 2020, Riding Sunbeams hopes to build and connect the world’s first ever full-scale community- and commuter-owned solar farm to UK railways.

The project also estimates that solar could power one fifth of the Merseyrail network in Liverpool, as well as 15 per cent of commuter routes in Kent, Sussex and Wessex. 

Reducing the emissions of the locomotive industry is something that is receiving a lot of attention and funding from both the Government and private firms. 

Hydrogen trains have recently been developed which would slash emissions as the only product created would be water. 

These virtually silent marvels emit no greenhouse gases and produce water vapour as their only exhaust.

A prototype version of the vehicle, dubbed HydroFlex, was tested out in Long Marston, Warwickshire in June.

Carriage space in this proof-of-concept version is currently taken up with the equipment needed to power the train.

These virtually silent marvels emit no greenhouse gases and produce water vapour as their only exhaust.

A prototype version of the vehicle, dubbed HydroFlex, has been tested out in Long Marston, Warwickshire.

Carriage space in this proof-of-concept version is currently taken up with the equipment needed to power the train.

The technology has been added to existing Class 319 trains in the prototype version, but theoretically can be fitted to any train, old or new.

This means that no new trains will have to be built to specifically incorporate the hydrogen drive system - meaning existing trains can be recycled, further conserving precious resources.

The UK government is currently developing the infrastructure to get hydrogen from renewable energy such as windfarms, which would make it a completely green source of fuel in the future.


Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity. 

Two methods for generating solar power exist.

Photovoltaics — the kind of solar panel you might see built into a calculator — are capable of directly converting light into electrical power. 

In concentrated solar power systems, however, mirrors or lenses are first used to collect the sunlight that falls on a large area and focus it — creating heat that can be used to drive a steam turbine and generate electricity.

The productivity of solar panels is dependant on the sunlight they receive in a given location — a factor which is dependant on both latitude and climate.

Optimum locations for solar farms include the arid tropics and subtropics, with deserts lying at such low latitudes often being cloudless and getting around 10 hours of sunlight each day.

According to NASA, the eastern part of the Sahara — the Libyan Desert — is the sunniest place on the Earth.

Solar power accounted for 1.7 per cent of the world's electricity production in 2017, and has been growing at a rate of 35 per cent each year.

Via Daily Mail


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