A joint rail initiative using solar lighting and power generation has achieved 97% diesel-free operation in support of a major project in Wales.
The initiative, led by Network Rail and Colas Rail, used the environmentally friendly solar lighting and power generation in order to prove the viability of a sustainable ‘Site of the Future’.
On the major rail renewal project in Llanwern, South Wales, solar and battery technologies were used of diesel generators.
It led to the saving of 6,000 litres of diesel fuel, as well as in excess of 15 tonnes of CO2 during the two-week project.
These are significant results in the continuing battle to reduce and eliminate harmful emissions, and ultimately improve air quality, which is being pushed hard in the government’s Road to Zero strategy.
Nick Matthews, Network Rail programme engineering manager, called the results “staggering.”
He said: “In business improvement, generally one or two percent gain is considered significant, so to achieve 97% at the first attempt is simply staggering.
“Saving close to 6,000 litres of diesel is the same as driving a family car at 40 mpg twice around the circumference of the world.
“It’s also very clear where we have learnt the lessons from Llanwern so we can close that small gap.
“We really want to get to that 100% fuel free figure by the time of our next challenge, planned for a renewal project later in the summer.”
The results from the project themselves are significant in moving towards carbon-free off-grid working.
This supports the target set out by Network Rail to reduce non-traction energy consumption by approximately a fifth by 2024, and to reduce carbon emissions by a quarter at the same time.
Previously, the only way to support rail renewal work has been by using diesel generators to harness reliable off-grid power.
This initiative has proven that viable solar technologies exist, and can provide vital contributions to non-traction carbon targets, reducing noise, smell and air pollution at a stroke.