Photo credit: Andrea Vail

Time for renewables on the rail network?

Yes, it’s easy to gather from the punning headline that it’s another train-related blog. This time it’s less about the machine and the track – and more about what’s on the roof of the destination.

Well at least that’s true for King’s Cross Station – no small concern on the UK’s national rail system, who’ve gone out to set a big precedent. A solar glazing system for the new rolling roof structure, no less.

PV cells are integrated into 1,392 glass laminate units in arguably the most ambitious part of the station’s refurb. By a happy coincidence, the whole thing’s due to be ready to start generating by the summer, with an aim of around 175,000 units of electricity per year and over 100 tonnes of CO2 annually.

So is anyone set to follow the English capital’s East Coast terminus’ lead and haul their own arrays up high? You’d hope so. After all, public buildings of all varieties that have a suitably-facing roof have a role to play in making the UK sustainable across the board. We even came across public toilets getting a solar makeover recently.

Germany, never shy of bold renewables moves, sets a cracking example in this area. National train operator Deutsche Bahn currently gets about 20 per cent of its power from wind, hydro and solar generation. What’s more, it recently announced its intention to raise that to 28 per cent in 2014 and to be carbon free by 2050.

What this means in practice is that all the country’s 5,700 train stations will have photo-voltaic panels. We’ve got some work to do to compete internationally in this game, then.

Back in the UK, the sustainability part of Network Rail’s site is inconclusive about other renewable energy projects in the pipeline. They’re keen to crow about what’s going down at King’s Cross – understandably – and also mention the waste reduction work going on in the redevelopment of another London mainstay, Blackfriars. But it’s not so easy to see if stations not undergoing an overhaul, and elsewhere in the country. If you know of a project, feel free to let us know!

We’d like to think that in the future the phrase ‘it’s just like King’s Cross station’ might be less about ant hill-like manic congestion and more about a rail renewables revolution.