Installing solar panels alongside railway track in the UK could help Network Rail cut cost with up to £30m every year, according to environmental consultants.
A calculation by WSP Global included in a new report, Creating Value in our Rail Network, estimated that trackside solar panels could save £150m over a 5-year timespan commencing in 2019 (CP6), and also cut 895,000 tonnes of carbon per year.
The report showed that if 50 per cent of the trackside land in the UK would have solar panels installed, that could generate 2.44GW electricity – around 40 per cent of what is currently used to power trains.
Although Network Rail would be unlikely to be able to fund the installation itself, estimated to cost £2.9bn, WSP said it would be an attractive investment to a third party investor.
“A scheme like this could generate revenue of £235m in its first year, a return on investment of over eight per cent,” Barny Evans, WSP’s renewable energy expert, 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.”