Imperial College London has collaborated with 10:10, a climate change charity, to research on powering up trains in the UK by connecting solar panels directly to the railways.

The renewable traction power project looks into bypassing the electricity grid to manage power demand from trains more efficiently. According to university officials, this is a first in the world when a research team will test such a unique concept that would have a huge impact on electrified rail networks around the world. They said:

“It would also open up thousands of new sites to small- and medium-scale renewable developments by removing the need to connect to the grid.”

In concordance to the project, Network Rail, the authority responsible for the country’s railway network, is currently investing billions to electrify railways in a bid to decrease the number of trains running on diesel fuel, reducing air pollution and costs in the process.

Initially, the project will look at how viable it is to convert third rail systems that supply electricity from the power grid through power lines running close to the ground. This is done with the university collaborating with the railway power distribution and management firm, Turbo Power Systems, to work on the technical aspects.

On the other hand, 10:10 is leading the research to investigate the capacity of the long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) market to directly connect renewable energy sources to transport systems.

According to 10:10, the full implementation of this new development will significantly decarbonise train lines and increase renewable energy generation in the UK by 2050.