World first project powering railways with renewable energy being developed on the Isle of Wight

Colin Palmer from Wight Community Energy says a radical approach is needed if we are to be successful in achieving a shift to 100% renewable energy

Isle of Wight solar panels

Two community-led renewable energy schemes on the Isle of Wight have received a total of £73,000 in feasibility funding from the Rural Community Energy Fund. Wight Community Energy will use the grants to test the viability of developing a solar facility in Sandown as well as a new hydrogen production facility.

The fund is administered by the South West Energy Hub in partnership with the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which is supporting the projects.

A world first
The proposed solar power facility forms part of a world first project called Riding Sunbeams, that investigates directly powering railways with renewable energy. 

If shown to be viable, the scheme will be delivered in partnership with Wight Community Energy, Community Energy South and stakeholders including Southern Water, Network Rail and South Western Railways – the ambition is to enable the Island Line to reduce its energy costs and cut carbon emissions. 

Funds will be raised through a community share offer, with any surpluses reinvested into projects which benefit local people.

Producing hydrogen
The second project will look at using existing solar capacity to produce hydrogen, as an alternative to high carbon fossil fuels. Potential users of hydrogen could include the ferry and bus companies as well as the rail network, commercial vehicles, fishing fleets and pleasure yachts.

The project would involve discussions with these user groups as well as work to investigate hydrogen storage, distribution and safety requirements.

Palmer: A radical approach is needed
Colin Palmer spokesperson for Wight Community Energy said,

“We are in the early stages of both these projects and this funding award will help us take a big step forward.

“The constraints of the Island’s electricity network mean that a radical approach is needed if we are to be successful in achieving a shift to 100% renewable energy, an ambition we share with the Isle of Wight Council.

“We believe that developing hydrogen production while expanding our existing solar capacity could be a really promising avenue to explore and we are excited to progress these feasibility studies.”

Hunt: A key priority for the Solent region
SJ Hunt, a Director at the Solent LEP, said,

“The transition to sustainable low carbon renewable energy solutions is a key priority for the Solent region. These innovative projects are a fantastic example of how this can be achieved through the community working in partnership with local organisations and businesses. We look forward to seeing the results of the feasibility studies.

“One of the key priorities in our emerging Solent 2050 strategy will be pioneering approaches to climate change adaptation and decarbonisation and establishing real expertise which other regions – nationally and globally – can learn from, and this is a terrific example of the Solent leading the way.”

Rattenbury: Hope Isle of Wight ambitions inspire others
Jon Rattenbury, Programme Manager at the South West Energy Hub, said,

“We are really pleased to be able to award grant funding to these projects which will not only help the environment but also benefit the Island economy and residents.

“We hope the ambition seen on the Isle of Wight will inspire more communities across the South West Energy Hub region to develop their own green energy projects.”

Wight Community Energy
Wight Community Energy already operates a solar farm on the Island for which it leases land from local resident farmers.

Surplus income generated by the solar farm has been used to tackle fuel poverty, working with local charity The Footprint Trust.

As a result, some 80 Island households have been helped to reduce fuel costs typically by £300 per annum.

News shared by Bex on behalf of Solent LEP. Ed

Monday, 1st June, 2020 12:26pm



Filed under: Business, Green Issues, Isle of Wight News, Top story

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7 Comments on "World first project powering railways with renewable energy being developed on the Isle of Wight"

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Wow! This is amazing! I do so hope these projects are successful. Could this eventually make train travel not just more environmentally friendly, but also cheaper, to encourage more people across the UK to use trains? There are big problems to overcome with sourcing lithium for electric vehicle batteries, and we need to reduce road traffic for safety as well as air pollution. On the Island, as… Read more »
Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham produced “Hydroflex” a tester train for Railway Research. It carried the hydrogen, fuel cells and batteries in the carriage where passengers would normally sit and it intended to site them above and below the carriages if the product was commercially viable. There were also two hydrogen trains running in Germany – not sure if they still are. Their hydrogen was unfortunately… Read more »

The problem to be solved with hydrogen trains is the high pressure hydrogen is stored at on the train and its associated weight.

Hello everybody and thanks for your comments. I think recent events have shown us just how quiet and peaceful our Island can be without noisy road transport. In addition to the trains, I am hoping that we can bring more electric public and private transport to the Island. Batteries do use lithium, but as they become ever more efficient they use less and less of it. Cobalt… Read more »
No matter how you look at it, generating hydrogen is NOT very energy efficient process. As I see it there is little point in trying to use hydrogen to power trains when many are already electric including those on the Island (excluding steam). Buses could be replaced with electric ones which are available but would require battery storage. Ferries are at another level and while electric ferries… Read more »
If it’s going to be used to usefully power trains,or anything else for that matter, there will need to be massive battery banks to go with the solar panels. We can’t have trains not running when there’s no sun… ie in winter.And what can you do with hydrogen ? Use it to power a fuel cell ? Anyone calculated the efficiency of using electricity to produce carbon… Read more »
You can use hydrogen to power vehicles, or boats, directly or you can store it and use it to drive generators when there is no solar or wind energy. In my view we need to stay well away from batteries, a large part of the raw materials come from Africa (DRC) and is 80% controlled by China. It is I am sure one reason why China is… Read more »