UK Govt Funding Trials of Innovative Solar Rail, Roads & Pathways

The Department of Transport of the UK Government has announced plans to fund trials of two distinct and innovative solar technologies which could help decarbonize Britain’s railways and future-proof its roads.

The UK Government has awarded multi-million pound funding to trials of solar used in conjunction with railways, roads and footways. The Department of Transport or DfT announced a series of new fundings.

UK Rail Minister Andrew Jones said, “We want a cleaner, greener rail network and transforming our trains will help make this a reality. The targets we set for 2040 are ambitious but are within our reach.”

The first is a project that has won a share of a £1.75 million allocated to carbon-cutting rail schemes. This project will assess the viability of using solar on the trains and directly power them. It is one of one of the five low carbon rail projects which will receive £350,000 each.

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There are other two projects in Buckinghamshire and Central Bedfordshire which have received £4.49 million and £1.05 million respectively to trial solar roads and footways. Precise details of these ‘innovation’ projects are not yet available.

The Funding plan has come just over a year after a study conducted by climate charity called 10:10 and Imperial College London’s Energy Future Lab found that solar panels could provide up to 10% of the electricity needed to power electrified train routes in the UK especially for the commuter rail network south of London.

The Solar industry in the UK has welcomed the development. STA Chief Executive Chris Hewett said, “It is fantastic to see solar innovation being championed in the UK. This kind of leadership gives Britain the potential to be at the forefront of the clean, smart energy revolution. That said, it is imperative Government backs tried and tested renewable energy technologies too, and we hope that this is a sign of greater things to come in terms of support for solar, given the challenges facing the industry at present.”

There are further reports that plans are under consideration to build a fleet of solar and onshore wind farms alongside the route of the controversial HS2 line in a bid to supply it with renewable power. The HS2 Line in the UK is its High-Speed railway line which has been in headlines as the cost of construction is expected to spiral out to over £70 billion from an earlier estimate of £43 Billion and is 3 years behind schedule.

Surface-level solar installations in roads and footways have rarely been successful but they are in laid in France, US , China and parts of Normandy too. The Solar industry has been slowly working its way up in Britain as compared to other European countries. One of the changes that is stimulating the growth of the sector has been the UK government’s decision to lift a 5 MW cap on the size of projects eligible for subsidies via the Feed-in Tariff. Another factor that played a role in the growth of the field is the arrival of low-cost solar panels from China, which has aided in making photovoltaic technology more competitive.

Image courtesy: LinkedIn

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