Solar panels could slash rail operating costs claims report

Trackside solar panels could save the UK rail network upto £150m over a five-year period, according to a study carried out by engineering consultancy WSP.

According to WSP’s report, Creating Value in Our Rail Network, solar panels on 50 per cent of the trackside land in the UK the scheme could generate 2.44GW of electricity, around 40 per cent of the electricity Network Rail currently uses to power trains, and around half of the UK’s total existing installed photovoltaic (PV) capacity.

WSP renewable energy expert Barny Evans said that the scheme, which would cost in the region of £2.9bn, would be an attractive investment to a third party investor. ‘[It] could generate revenue of £235m in its first year, a return on investment of over eight per cent,’ he said.

‘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. It’s a win-win situation; the investors get a return and Network Rail could save millions of pounds on their electricity bill and reduce their carbon footprint without spending a penny.’

WSP’s UK head of rail, Julie Carrier, added: ‘Our rail network is under enormous pressure due to decreasing public investment and steadily increasing demand and so delivering value is becoming crucial. It’s a challenge that requires creativity – trackside solar panels and improving tier two stations is just the beginning. Network Rail is a major land owner, with around 122,000 hectares in England alone so there are huge opportunities by making their land work harder for them.’