Image: Bombardier

Solar panels are being installed at Aldershot Station as part of a project exploring the potential of solar-powered railways.

The 135 panels are being installed on derelict land near the station and are expected to start generating in August. They will supply electricity directly to the railway lines without first distributing it to the grid.

The location of the panels. Image: South Western Railway

A 2017 study by climate charity 10:10 and Imperial College London’s Energy Future Lab found that solar could provide 10% of the electricity needed to power electrified train routes when connected directly.

The Riding Sunbeams demonstrator project, a collaboration between 10:10, Community Energy South and National Rail, is being funded through Innovate UK and the Department for Transport.

Larger solar projects could be rolled out across South Western Railway (SWR)’s network if the scheme passes its real-world testing. SWR has reduced its emissions by 33% in the past year and aims to cut carbon emissions by 60% overall in the next five years.

A public drop-in is being held at Aldershot Station on 17 July to engage the public in the scheme.

Amelia Woodley, head of sustainability at South Western Railway, said there’s “never been a better time” to partner with Riding Sunbeams due to the passing of the net-zero emissions legislation.

Ollie Pendered, executive director of Riding Sunbeams, said: “We are very excited to be installing the world’s first project to directly power railway lines with solar energy at Aldershot station. We hope this pilot scheme paves the way for the railway industry, and the UK, becoming zero-carbon.”