A report by Canadian engineering consulting firm WSP has revealed that UK rail infrastructure operator Network Rail could save £30m and 895,000t of carbon a year, if it were to install solar panels alongside railway track in the country.
According to the report, called ‘On Track for Value’, this scheme is expected to provide Network Rail a £150m in saving over their next five-year control period.
It is estimated that the installation of solar panels on 50% of the trackside would generate 2.44GW electricity, which is about 40% of the electricity that Network Rail currently uses to power trains.
WSP 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."
The report also suggested that the estimated £2.9bn cost of the project can be invested by a third party investor since Network Rail would be unlikely to be able to fund the installation itself.
Evans added: "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."
The findings also suggested that there is a possibility of generating additional revenue streams by maximising the existing space in smaller, Tier 2 stations, through providing retail and entertainment facilities and making them more energy efficient.
Image: Installing solar panels alongside railway track in the UK could potentially save Network Rail £30m and 895,000t of carbon a year. Photo: courtesy of WSP.