Ricardo teams for solar railway power project

June 19, 2020 //By Nick Flaherty
Engineers from Ricardo and Turbo Power Systems are connecting solar farms to the railway power network with Riding Sunbeams
Engineers from Ricardo and Turbo Power Systems are connecting solar farms to the railway power network with Riding Sunbeams

The Power & Environment division of UK engineering firm Ricardo is working on a UK project to add solar energy to the emerging AC railway power system. Electrification is gradually replacing diesel on UK railways, but the energy still comes from power stations burning natural gas.

The £400,000 (E450,000) Daybreak demonstrator is funded by the Department of Transport and InnovateUK’s First Of A Kind 2020 to use off the shelf power equipment already in use on the rail network for a power conversion system. 

Over the next nine months charity joint venture Riding Sunbeams will install the railway power system alongside a solar array coupled with line-side storage from Turbo Power Systems at Quinton Rail Technology Centre at Long Marston. This will be used to power a train engine with solar energy directly for the first time.

“This project is a huge step forward for our mission to develop and connect unsubsidised, direct-wire renewable generation and energy storage to power British trains, with significant social impact for line-side communities,” said Alex Byford, Chief Technology Officer at Riding Sunbeams.

The first project from Riding Sunbeams demonstrated direct supply from a solar array to the DC third rail traction system at their ‘First Light’ pilot site outside Aldershot station. The company, a joint venture between UK charity Possible and not for profit Community Energy South, aims to build community-owned solar farms to supply the rail network

Our latest project will showcase our ability to adapt existing technologies to directly power AC rail networks with clean, green energy and also help to support low-cost electrification of some of the most challenging remaining diesel powered lines. As a testament to the success of our DC demonstrator last year, we are once again excited to be working on the First of a Kind programme, funded by the Department for Transport and delivered by InnovateUK,” said Byford.

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