Solar panels could put Network Rail on track for savings

Trackside solar panels could save energy costs
Installing solar panels alongside railway track in the UK could save Network Rail £30million and 895,000 tonnes of carbon per annum according to consultancy firm WSP.

It calculates that if solar panels were able to be installed on 50% of the trackside land in the UK the scheme could generate 2.44GW electricity, which is around 40% of the electricity Network Rail currently uses to power trains, saving £150million over the next control period, it says. It would also increase solar energy production in the UK, which is at present approximately 5GW of installed photovoltaics solar.

Installation costs are estimated at £2.9billion, possibly an investment for a third party, suggest the company.

WSP's renewable energy expert, Barny Evans said: "A scheme like this could generate revenue of £235m in its first year, a return on investment of over 8%. It benefits from having two guaranteed revenue streams – firstly through the Feed In Tariff for renewable electricity but also by selling the electricity back to Network Rail at a reduced rate."

In the report, Creating Value in our Rail Network, the company also highlighted the under-utilisation of 'tier two' stations and suggests there is the potential for creating additional revenue streams by maximising the existing space and making them more energy-efficient. Examples were improving and/or providing retail and entertainment facilities to the station.

Caroline Hayes

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