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Tuesday, 28 January 2014 12:44cat

World’s Largest Solar-Powered Bridge Opens in London

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The Blackfriars Bridge is the world's largest solar bridge The Blackfriars Bridge is the world's largest solar bridge theguardian

The Blackfriars Railway Bridge in London, England is now the largest-solar powered bridge in the world.  Network Rail, the company in charge of London’s rail system, unveiled the bridge at a ribbon cutting ceremony last Wednesday.  The roof of the new bridge is covered with 4,400 photovoltaic panels.  The panels will supply half of the energy needed to run London Blackfriars station, and they will help to reduce the station’s carbon emissions by 511 tons per year.  By comparison the world’s only other solar bridge, the Kurilpa Bridge in Brisbane, Australia, will save 38 tons of carbon emissions each year.

The bridge is seen as a major step for London toward being a sustainable city.  The panels will act as green energy advertisements for tourists who can see them when they are arriving in the city.  Suzanna Lashford, head of commercial sales for Solarcentury, hopes the project will inspire other big infrastructure developers to embrace the benefits of renewable energy.  Solarcentury’s senior project manager, Gavin Roberts, also spoke about the complexity of the project.  The roof panels needed to be installed in phases over a two-year period, and great care was needed to ensure that all of the pieces fit together.  The 4,400 photovoltaic panels were the focal point of this project instead of an afterthought like they are on many other projects.  Due to the location of the bridge, it was difficult to ship the solar panels and other materials to the site.  At one point, Solarcentury even considered shipping the panels down the Thames River to avoid transportation restrictions and ensure that safety standards were followed.  The contractors also had to work around the 2012 London Olympics.  Solarcentury completely stopped work leading up to and during the games to not interfere or cause any distraction from the Olympics.

The Blackfriars Railway Bridge project is part of the larger Thameslink Program.  Network Rail is spending over £6.5 billion to redesign four rail stations to increase their efficiency and sustainability.  Once finished, Network Rail hopes to be able to run trains every two-three minutes on the line.  Between the new Blackfriars Station and Blackfriars Bridge, the reduction in carbon emission will be equal to 89,000 car trips per year and the panels will provide enough energy to make 80,000 cups of tea per day. At the time of installation, Network Rail estimated the 1.1 MWp solar panel system will generate 900,000 kWh of power per year.

Sources: The GuardianInhabitatNetwork Rail

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