A research team from the Imperial College London is teaming up with the charity 10:10 to pursue what they call a “completely unique” and ambitious plan to power the U.K.’s trains with solar panels. Directly feeding solar-generated electricity into train lines—rather than needing to rely on the conventional power grid—would enable better energy management and could have a “wide impact with commercial applications on electrified rail networks all over the world,” according to the college.
The U.K.’s rail system is in the process of moving from expensive and pollutive diesel fuel to electric power, and generating that power from solar could provide further environmental benefits. The solar panel system would also enable trains to run into more rural areas where the existing power grid couldn’t support an electric train line.
The first stage of the research will explore the feasibility of using solar for electric-powered “third rail systems” which make up about a third of the U.K.’s train lines.