Work has finished on what is now the largest solar bridge in the world. Blackfriars Bridge, part of Blackfriars Station in London, has been fitted with 4,400 photovoltaic panels, which are expected to reduce the station's CO2 emissions by an estimated 511 tonnes (563 tons) per year. Work began in spring 2009 and the station was operationally complete in time for the 2012 Olympics, with the solar array installation complete in March 2013. The full refurbishment of the station is now also complete.

The installation of the solar panels was part of the wider redevelopment of Blackfriars Station, which includes a new entrance on the south bank of the River Thames, four new platforms and a improved Underground station. The station is a key part of the £6.5 billion (US$10.72 billion) Thameslink Programme, which aims to increase train capacity on one of Europe's busiest stretches of railway running from north to south through central London.

The array of Panasonic 250 Wp panels is the largest solar array on a bridge in the world, covering a total area of 6,000 sq m (19,685 sq ft). Its maximum output is estimated at 1.1 MWp (megawatt peak) and it is expected to generate 900,000 kWh of electricity each year – over half the amount required to power the station. The panels are fixed and south-facing.

The installation of the array was highly complex, as it involved building on a Victorian bridge over an operational railway and the River Thames. A number of unexpected issues arose, including significant corrosion on the arches and required strengthening of the bridge.

"Our work at Blackfriars demonstrates two key benefits of solar," says Frans van den Heuvel, CEO of Solarcentury. "First, it can be integrated into the architecture to create a stunning addition to London’s skyline. Second, it can be integrated into the most complex of engineering projects; in this case being built above a construction site, over a rail track over a river."

Source: Network Rail