Creating the world’s largest solar bridge at Blackfriars

The new Blackfriars station – which is being built on a bridge spanning the River Thames – is on its way to becoming the world’s largest solar bridge as Solarcentury begins the installation of over 4,400 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.

The Victorian bridge, built in 1886, is the foundation for the new Blackfriars station, which is being upgraded by Network Rail to cater for more passengers and an improved train service. A new roof, added to the historic structure, will incorporate over 6,000m² of PV panels, creating the biggest solar array in London by mid 2012.

The solar panels will generate an estimated 900,000kWh of electricity every year, providing 50% of the station’s energy and reducing CO2 emissions by an estimated 511 tonnes per year. In addition to solar panels, other energy saving measures at the new station will include rain harvesting systems and sun pipes for natural lighting.

The Blackfriars upgrade is part of Network Rail’s Thameslink programme, which will see longer trains running on the route from Bedford to Brighton through London. Once the upgrade is complete, up to 24 trains per hour will be able to run on the central London section of the route, meaning more seats for commuters.

Lindsay Vamplew, Network Rail’s project director for Blackfriars, said: “We’re creating a spacious, modern station and delivering a vastly improved train service for passengers, while at the same time installing London’s largest solar array to make Blackfriars more environmentally-friendly and sustainable.

“The Victorian rail bridge at Blackfriars is part of our railway history. Constructed in the age of steam, we’re bringing it bang up to date with twenty first century solar technology to create an iconic station for the city.”

The company behind the solar engineering and installation is London-based Solarcentury, who worked with engineers Jacobs to incorporate solar PV into the station design. The high-efficiency solar modules used are manufactured by SANYO Electric Co. Ltd.

Derry Newman, Chief Executive, Solarcentury, said: “It’s fantastic to see this project finally come to fruition. Blackfriars Bridge is an ideal location for solar; a new, iconic large roof space, right in the heart of London.

“Station buildings and bridges are fixed parts of our urban landscape and it is great to see that this one will be generating renewable energy every day into the future. Unknown to most, there are many hundreds of buildings now powered by solar in the capital as investment in this technology increases. For people to see that solar power is working is a vital step towards a clean energy future.”

Mr. Shigeki Komatsu, solar division director of SANYO Component Europe GmbH, commented: “SANYO is very proud to have its HIT solar modules used in the redevelopment of Blackfriars Station. The high efficiency of our solar modules makes them ideal for structures where maximum power generation is required from an area where load must be considered. With our solar modules on this well known London landmark, SANYO hopes to raise awareness and understanding of solar and other renewable energy technologies, demonstrating how they can both help the city environment and minimise the onset of climate change.”

The only other solar bridge known in the world is in Brisbane, Australia. The Kurilpa Footbridge was constructed in 2009. Earlier this year 16,000 solar panels were laid on the top of a train tunnel in Belgium, for trains travelling from Paris to Antwerp. The electricity produced was equivalent to that needed to power all the trains in Belgium for one day per year.

Notes for your interest…

1. The solar panels for Blackfriars station were funded through the Department for Transport’s safety and environment fund.

2. Generation yield of 900,000 kWh forecast on 850kWh/ kWp generated, as recommended by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

3. C02 savings based on 0.545 kg C02 per kWh of grid electricity in the UK, as stated by The Carbon Trust.

Solarcentury

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