We’re now ready to take our idea off the drawing board and onto the tracks. This summer, all being well, we will connect the first ever solar traction array to the railway line between London and Weymouth!
This is just a pilot - with only about 100 solar panels. The array will be connected to an ancillary transformer on the traction system that controls signalling and lights. At the same time we’ll be gathering electricity demand data from our six potential solar sites in the south of England. Putting this real-world data together, we’ll be able to work out how to plug in much larger solar arrays to power trains in future.
We’ll also be working on some of the legal and business side of things that will need to be in place to make this happen - such as power purchase agreements.
If successful, this Riding Sunbeams: First Light project will prove that plugging solar directly into the UK railways can be done safely and without disrupting the trains.
All that should pave the way for connecting the world’s first ever full-scale, community- and commuter-owned solar traction farm to the railways by 2020.
The First Light project is funded under the Department for Transport and Innovate UK’s First of a Kind competition.