KH Engineering Services (KHES) has now completed the first major deployment of photovoltaic (PV) panels on the UK rail network outside of London on behalf of Southeastern.
PV panels generate electricity from daylight. As the railway strives to cut carbon emissions, operators are looking to maximise the electricity they use from renewable sources, including solar power.
The first major deployment of a solar PV array was at Blackfriars station. Installed on the roof of the Thameslink station in central London, is believed to be the largest PV array on the UK rail network and was used as a reference site. This project, overseen by Network Rail, provided useful insights as early consultations ensured that guidance could be provided on the basic requirements for installing solar PV in an operational railway environment.
Southeastern contracted KHES to fit solar PV arrays, an interconnected system of PV modules that function as a single electricity-producing unit, to train berthing, cleaning and maintenance facilities located at its light maintenance depots (LMDs) at:
- Grove Park, South London
- Gillingham, Kent
- Ramsgate, Kent
- West Marina, East Sussex
In total, just under 3,000 panels, producing 780kWp (Kilowatt peak) of solar PV capacity, were installed.
Following a review of renewable energy technology options, analysis of half-hourly electricity meter data and the development of scheme economics, a technical specification and procurement documentation were prepared for the panels and a supplier selected.
KHES also had to review the building structures, complete Network Rail’s assurance process and obtain feed-in-tariff (FiT) accreditation.
The existing and relatively lightweight 1940s roof structures required detailed civil engineering expertise, provided by Frankham Consultancy Group, to ensure that the current structure could carry the additional weight of the PV panels, mounting systems and associated ‘man-safe’ access ways. This included steel strength testing at Grove Park and Gillingham, as well as structural integrity analysis at all sites.
Darren Bates, KHES managing director, commented: “The project was not without its challenges, but, through effective collaboration, we are proud to have delivered a first for the rail industry.
“Solar PV was assessed to be the most operationally suitable renewable energy technology, and one that incurs minimal post-installation intervention.
“The project required both senior management and staff to meticulously coordinate at all levels to ensure the PV arrays were installed efficiently and safely. Ultimately, solar power is good for the planet and the railway, and it also makes good business sense.”
Southeastern’s head of facilities, Peter Stapleton, added: “We always want to do more to reduce our carbon footprint and by enhancing the supply to our train maintenance depots we’ve been able to do just that.
“Since KHES finished the installation, we’ve been able to run some depots entirely off-grid from the PV arrays, thus reducing our demand. What’s more, we were able to commission KHES to undertake this work without having any impact on the operational depots, benefitting passengers by ensuring that trains were able to enter and exit the depot at all times and our maintenance teams were able to go about their work.”
Darren Bates concluded: “Renewable energy has an important role to play, and KHES joins Southeastern in encouraging other train companies to follow this lead and deliver more renewable energy capacity to help decarbonise the rail network.”