A new UK study released today shows that solar energy could be used to power trains.

The renewable traction power study, led by climate change non-profit 10:10 and Imperial College London’s Energy Futures Lab, looked at how solar panels connected to substations might perform in supplying energy to the network.

And it found that using a combination of ‘track-connected solar arrays’ and energy storage could provide about 10% of the power needed annually to run the ‘UK’s direct current (DC) electrified routes’. It would also be cheaper than electricity from the grid.

And there is also huge international potential. The researchers say solar and battery storage in India, for example, could supply all the energy needed to power newly built electrified routes in the country.

Professor Tim Green, Director at Energy Futures Lab said: “I believe that decarbonising our transport sector is key to meeting the UK’s climate targets. The Renewable Traction Power project demonstrates that we can harness solar to make this a reality for our train network. I think that this project, with partners from industry, non-governmental organisations and academia, demonstrates that the best way to tackle many of the issues we face is through collaboration and leveraging expertise.”

The team is now looking for financial backing to create a prototype of the new electronics required before rolling out pilots of the system in the South East of England.

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