London’s first railway station to span the Thames will soon be boasting the largest solar panel roof in the world. More than a hundred bridges, 26 tunnels and public ferries cross the River Thames, but London’s Blackfriars station will be unique, sporting approximately 6,000 square meters of photovoltaic panels. Solarcentury, the UK Company managing the installation, expects the panels to produce around 900,000 kWh of electricity annually. The electricity generated will be enough to cover half of London’s Blackfriars station electricity needs and most importantly the use of renewable energy will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 511 tons per year. Other energy saving measures, such as rainwater harvesting systems and sun pipes for natural eco-friendly lighting, are being integrated into the Blackfriars station as well.
The original Victorian-era Blackfriars Railway Bridge was built in the heart of London, moving commuters directly to local attractions east and west of the Thames Path including Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tate Modern and The London Eye. With the addition of the new solar-equipped station, the renovated bridge’s landmark status will only grow. Lindsay Vamplew who is Network Rail’s project director for Blackfriars says in a statement,”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 21st century solar technology to create an iconic station for the city.”
The London’s Blackfriars station and bridge reconstruction is a part of Thameslink’s Network Rail program. Fulfillment of this program is estimated to cost 6 billion pounds. The aim of the program is to increase capacity on the north-south rail link, improving transfer between the National Rail and London Underground. After the upgrades are complete, the capacity of the bridge and station are expected to double, which is particularly relevant in light of the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games to be held in London.
As of today, London’s Blackfriars station is not the first solar powered project of such scale in the world. A two mile long high-speed train tunnel in Belgium was topped with 16,000 solar panels last year. Another example is the Kurilpa Bridge, a pedestrian and cyclist bridge in Brisbane, Australia. Another example is the Kurilpa Bridge, a pedestrian and cyclist bridge in Brisbane, Australia—which is powered by a sophisticated 84 solar panels LED lighting system, and enhances the appearance of the bridge with a futuristic look at night. The Kurilpa Bridge system produces an average of 100 kWh a day, and because it is connected to Brisbane’s electrical grid, it can drain excess electricity back to the grid or draw supplemental power when needed.
London’s Blackfriars station and similarly designed bridge projects represent innovative examples of how solar energy is being carried into a new areas of use. “Station buildings and bridges are fixed parts of our urban landscape,” said Derry Newman, Chief Executive of Solarcentury in a statement. “It is great to see that this one will be generating renewable energy every day into the future. For people to see that solar power is working, is a vital step towards a clean energy future.”
written by Grace Chen, Stoyan Stoyanov, Tito Jimenez and Oleg Chaban