After five years of planning and construction, a solar bridge now spans the River Thames in London.
Originally built in 1886, the Victorian-era bridge has a brand new look – a canopy of 4,400 solar PV panels! They supply half the energy for the busy railroad station underneath, Blackfriars Station.
Built by Solarcentury, the 6,000-plus square meters of solar panels can generate 900,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, reducing the carbon footprint of the train station by about 89,000 rail trips.
The station, which also got a makeover, features rain harvesting systems and sun pipes for natural lighting. The project is at the heart of the £6.5 billion Thameslink Programme, which working to deliver more convenient service between a range of destinations through central London.
“The dramatic transformation of Blackfriars station from a small and cramped station to a modern landmark is typical of how we are enhancing one of Europe’s busiest rail routes – using smart, sustainable technology to reduce the cost of running the railway at the same time as giving passengers the longer, more frequent trains that are so desperately needed,” says Simon Kirby, managing director of Network Rail Infrastructure Projects.
In addition to making a commute by electric train even more sustainable, those involved with the bridge project hope it will demonstrate that a city doesn’t have to be in the tropics to take advantage of solar energy. It’s also a living example that implementation of 21st century energy technologies need not detract from historic surroundings.
“Our work at Blackfriars demonstrates two key benefits of solar,” explains Frans van den Heuvel, CEO of Solarcentury. “First, it can be integrated into the architecture to create a stunning addition to London’s skyline. Second, it can be integrated into the most complex of engineering projects; in this case being built above a construction site, over a rail track over a river. We are confident that future major infrastructure projects can and will benefit from solar.”
“The distinctive roof has also turned our station into an iconic landmark visible for miles along the River Thames,” notes David Statham, Managing Director of First Capital Connect which runs Blackfriars station.