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Work starts on world's largest solar bridge at Blackfriars

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October 5, 2011

The new Blackfriars railway station, being built on the foundations of a Victorian bridge ...

The new Blackfriars railway station, being built on the foundations of a Victorian bridge spanning the River Thames in London, has started to have the first of over 4,400 solar panels installed on its roof (All photos: Solarcentury/Network Rail)

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Blackfriars Bridge, a Victorian rail bridge in the heart of London, is now well on its way to becoming the biggest solar array in the city and the world's largest solar bridge. When the installation is complete, the roof of the new Blackfriars railway station will be home to over 6,000 square meters (64,583 sq.ft.) of solar panels, satisfying half of the station's power needs.

We recently featured a two mile stretch of rail tunnel with 16,000 solar panels on the roof, providing power to signaling, lighting, and heating of railway stations, and also to some of the trains using the Belgian rail network.

Now, Blackfriars Bridge has started to have over 4,400 high-efficiency Sanyo HIT photovoltaic panels installed on its newly-built roof by London-based Solarcentury and engineers from Jacobs. Blackfriars spans the River Thames, and was originally built during the age of steam in 1886.

The new Blackfriars Station is currently being redeveloped as part of a Network Rail Thameslink program upgrade (with funding from the Department for Transport's safety and environment fund), which aims to have longer trains - meaning more seats for commuters - running from Bedford to Brighton via London. The solar installation will generate a claimed 900,000kWh of electricity every year, and will be joined by other energy-saving measures such as rain harvesting systems and sun pipes for natural lighting.

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Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden
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13 Comments

This power figure sounds so absurd because both wind and solar projects deceptively advertise their maximum possible capacity - NOT their averaged output.

Meaning this array is designed to produce a maximum output that can satisfy these needs, but actually will produce around 20% of that figure. Wind comes out to about 18% of maximum capacity and you must also subtract maintenance and downtime.

Todd Dunning
5th October, 2011 @ 01:29 pm PDT

LOL - lets pick a spot on the planet most likely to be covered in clouds, raining, smoggy, or other wise dark - and put solar panels there :-)

christopher
5th October, 2011 @ 07:38 pm PDT

While I am not a fan of photovoltaic, The rain will keep the panels relatively clean. I think setting up some floating water wheels would be a more practical way of generating electricity.

Slowburn
5th October, 2011 @ 08:13 pm PDT

Doing the maths on the power figure:

900,000kWh

1457.4 average sunshine hours in London / year (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_the_United_Kingdom)

= 617.5 kW/h

4,400 panels

= approx 140 watts / panel

Doing a quick google search for HIT solar panels shows that Sanyo's current model is 210 watts / panel

Using that figure we can see the above equation would mean a 66% assumed efficiency based on average sunshine hours / year in London.

Max output would be: 1,346,637 kWh, assuming average sunshine hours. If by max output (for the 20% comment above) you mean they calculate not on average sunshine, but on all daylight hours then it would seem reasonable that 4,400 solar panels rated at 210watts / panel could produce 900,000 kWh / year.

OR

Maybe they should put a nuclear reactor on the roof?

Scion
5th October, 2011 @ 10:00 pm PDT

Good point, Todd. Let's not bother. Better to just burn more coal and rearrange the deck chairs as out Titanic sinks.

Kingsfield58
5th October, 2011 @ 10:06 pm PDT

as they are sitting on top of a river, it makes sense to get power from that too...why isn't that in the plan, I wonder?

Mark-Toxic Pettit
6th October, 2011 @ 06:16 am PDT

The size of the system is 1.1MW. In the UK the average generation per kW is 850kWh - often considerably higher. So, the expected generation is 900,000 kWh of electricity per year. This yield average is verified by The Department of Energy and Climate Change, and is based on extensive monitoring and field trials in the UK.

Solarcentury
6th October, 2011 @ 06:38 am PDT

re; Mark-Toxic Pettit

While I agree with you. The River Thames in London is a tidal estuary with reversing flows and salt water. Part of the reason I like waterwheels over turbines for the job.

re; Kingsfield58

AGW is nonsense not a crisis. Check out a little historical perspective.

http://neoconexpress.blogspot.com/2010/12/time-like-newsweek-predicted-coming-ice.html

http://boldrepublic.com/climate_change.html

http://www.sodahead.com/living/the-april-8th-1977-issue-of-time-magazine-entitled-how-to-survive-the-coming-ice-age-is/question-188977/?link=ibaf&q=times%2Bmagazine%2Bcover%2Bice%2Bage&imgurl=http://images.sodahead.com/polls/000188977/polls_untitled1_3317_661370_poll_xlarge.jpeg

Slowburn
6th October, 2011 @ 08:07 am PDT

Todd:

You evidently did not read the article carefully. THe power figure was expressed as kWh per year, which IS an average figure, not as kW.

Regarding hte other comments, I agree that it does make more sense to put water wheels of some kind in the river than to use soalr panels. Of course, they are not mutually exclusive. Why not do both?

David Charles Leithauser
6th October, 2011 @ 09:12 am PDT

re; Why not do both?

comment David Charles Leithauser

Because the cost effectiveness of solar is really low.

Slowburn
7th October, 2011 @ 12:58 am PDT

If they put windows in the roof they would have free light. Instead they spend thousands on solar panels that turn light into electricity & then use that electricity to power light bulbs. Seriously!, the designers/planners need there heads looking at, thicker than a piece of two by four if you ask me.

Anthony Collett
17th October, 2011 @ 04:18 am PDT

Using sunpipes might be a good way of harnessing natural light for the bridge. I find it strange how people seem to assume that they're doing the wrong thing when it hasn't even been built yet. Do we just assume experts don't do their research before undertaking such a big project and neglect the efficiency of panels. As I read here - http://www.intelligentenergysolutions.com/how-does-it-work_c81.aspx, "fitting a high efficiency panel system on a roof with ample space may not lead to maximum output and reliability over the life of the system." All I'm saying is that it isn't fair to make assumptions now.

D Cartwright
22nd November, 2011 @ 01:14 am PST

Slowburn, articles from neoconexpress and sodahead? Really? That's what you're basing your opinion on? If you understood the scientific process you would know that predictions are made based on the best current information. The great thing about science is that as new information comes to light, predictions can and will change to reflect that. Scientific predictions often change real world policies and activities which change the outcome, hopefully for the positive. An example might be that you are driving your vehicle at 100km/h towards a brick wall. Science predicts that you will crash into the wall and die. You decide to slow down and turn the steering wheel which allows you to avoid the wall, but now you are heading for a washed out bridge that spans a canyon. So science tells you that at your current trajectory and speed you will crash into the canyon and perish. You then say "yeah right, you said I was going to crash into a wall and you were wrong, so you are wrong about this too. I'm not changing anything". Good luck with your Dukes of Hazard attempt at jumping the canyon.

Coconut Grover
5th June, 2013 @ 09:12 am PDT
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