Network Rail has signed an agreement with EDF Renewables UK to see enough solar energy to power 20,000 homes used in offices, depots, and railway stations across the UK. Quadrant Transport explores how this will support a more sustainable railway.
It is said by Network Rail that the contract will mean 49.9 MW of renewable energy capacity is available and is said to cover around 15 per cent of the companies‘ annual consumption of non-traction energy.
Energy will be provided from EDF Renewables UK’s Bloy’s Grove solar farms between Swainsthorpe and Mulbarton in Norfolk, which received planning consent in June this year. This builds upon the existing traction supply partnership between Network Rail and the wider EDF Group in the UK.
A Low Emission Railway Is Needed To Reach Net Zero
The agreement is in line with Network Rail’s commitment to sourcing 100 per cent of non-traction energy from renewable sources by 2030 as part of its Environmental Sustainability Strategy.
Setting out the actions and timelines that are required to deliver the company’s four key priorities, Network Rail’s 30-year Environmental Sustainability Strategy outlines the importance of providing a low-emission railway, a reliable railway service that is resilient to climate change, improved biodiversity of plants and wildlife and minimal waste and sustainable use of materials.
Network Rail’s Chief Environment and Sustainability Officer, Jo Lewington, spoke about how it is vital to work towards a greener railway if the UK is going to reach our net zero targets.
He said: “Rail is already in a strong position in terms of its green credentials, but it’s crucial that we do everything we can as a business to improve air quality, minimise our use of fossil fuels, and transition to an industry powered by green, renewable, low carbon energy.”
Our vision is to serve the nation with the cleanest, greenest form of public transport and this agreement marks another important step towards achieving our aims.
The Rail Industry Must Work With The Local Community
Going forward, EDF Renewables will now work closely with the local community and the council to plan the next steps toward the construction and operation of the solar farm.
Over the lifetime of the project, the company will build, own, and operate the solar farm, and is offering a £20,000 per year community benefit fund which starts when the site is operational.
CEO of EDF Renewables UK, Matthieu Hue, said: “We are very pleased to be working with Network Rail to help them on their journey to decarbonisation. This project shows the ability of EDF Renewables UK to provide diverse solutions for customers in terms of low-cost renewable electricity.
“This also demonstrates our ability to develop competitive and affordable renewable power projects in the UK as well as underpinning the importance of all renewable technologies in decarbonising the UK electricity system to reach the country’s net zero targets by 2050.”
In addition to the community benefit fund, there will also be significant biodiversity improvements on site, including a community orchard and it is said that the team will liaise with local residents on these matters.