Trains are one of the cleanest and most effective means of mass transportation. And the prospect of climate change has made it more urgent that we use this method of transportation more in the near future. The use of solar panels promises to be one of the most promising areas for rail. Solar energy could become the main source of power replacing the dependence on fossil fuel and could also power stations.
Trains can be an effective way to utilize solar power as they run on electricity obtained from the grid. They are also very efficient in the use of fuel compared to road transport. In an unprecedented development, there is a possibility that trains in the future may be run by renewable power directly obtained from solar panels.
The lights and signals on the Wessex route of the National Rail in south England already use solar energy. It is an exhibition project but if successful will prove that solar energy is capable of providing electricity directly to the UK rail traction systems.
The project, named First Light was launched on August 23. A solar panel in Aldershot in Hampshire circumvented the national electricity grid. And it was linked to an additional transformer linked to the electric line system. The rig is a robust 100-panel strong. Additional data is being sourced to find out ways in which more trains could be plugged into sources of much larger solar arrays.
Run by Riding Sunbeams, a social enterprise, it has been providing supporting funds from the transport department. Riding Sunbeams is trying to add to existing research findings which say that tram, tube, and train lines could be connected directly by solar panels and could contribute significantly to their electricity needs. This is the first time that solar power is being supplied directly to rail traction systems.
The railways can cut down on their dependency on electricity obtained by burning fossil fuels. This will significantly bring down the cost of running the trains and simultaneously help in tackling the climate situation.
Solar power is already being harnessed by railways around the world on a regular basis. The International Energy Agency has singled out solar energy as the potential source of the largest provider of electricity by the year 2050. Solar panels will help the most.
The First Light Project is optimistic that by 2020, it will build and link to the UK railways the first full-scale commuter and community-owned solar project in the world. Significantly, this project promises to deliver this clean and renewable source of electricity at a lower cost than that obtained from fossil fuels.
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