SOLAR PANELS are to be installed on derelict land near Aldershot station as part of an experiment into whether renewable energy could be used to power trains.

A total of 135 discrete solar panels are being installed and are expected to go live in August. The Riding Sunbeams ‘First Light’ demonstrator project is a collaboration between climate change charity 10:10, Community Energy South and Network Rail, alongside a consortium of specialist consultants and university departments. Operator South Western Railway hosted a drop-in event at Aldershot station on 17 July in conjunction with Riding Sunbeams. The project is funded by Innovate UK and the Department for Transport through the First of a Kind (FOAK) competition, announced earlier this year (p17, March issue).

Charity 10:10 hopes the project will prove the concept of using solar energy to power trains, paving the way for connecting the world’s first full-scale, community- and commuter-owned solar traction farm to the railways by 2020. It is also working with Transport for Wales to build renewable energy into plans to electrify the Core Valley Lines (CVL) north of Cardiff, using not just solar power but also community wind turbines. Welsh franchisee KeolisAmey has committed to stations and overhead wires on the CVL being powered by 100% renewable energy, with at least 50% sourced in Wales.