Imperial College London has partnered with the climate change charity 10:10 to investigate the use of track-side solar panels to power trains, the two organisations announced yesterday. The renewable traction power project will see university researchers look at connecting solar panels directly to the lines that provide power to trains, a move that would bypass the electricity grid in order to more efficiently manage power demand from trains. According to the university, the research team will be the first in the world to test the “completely unique” idea, which it said would have a “wide impact with commercial applications on electrified rail networks all over the world”. “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,” Network Rail is currently investing billions in electrifying the UK’s railways in a bid to reduce the number of trains running on diesel fuel, curbing costs, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions in the process. Combining this effort with increased renewable energy generation in the UK could significantly decarbonise train lines by 2050, according to 10:10, but in many rural areas the electricity grid has reached its limit for both integrating distributed energy generation and supplying power to train firms.
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