How the London Underground and buses could run on solar or wind power by 2030 – MyLondon
The London Underground could be completely zero-carbon in a decade.
Or at least, that is the aim, as Sadiq Khan has announced.
The Mayor of London revealed that, with Transport for London (TfL). he has started setting out the new plans for the network – making it more cost effective and tackling the climate emergency.
And this is big news, considering TfL is one of the largest consumers of electricity in the UK, using the amount of electricity equivalent to that consumed by over 437,000 homes, and 12 per cent of homes across London.
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If the transport body purchase power from renewable generators through Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), the rail network could be supplied by energy sources including wind and solar power, rather than a mix of power generators that emit carbon into the atmosphere.
But how much would that actually equate to, and how feasible is this plan?
The surprising facts
5.6 million solar panels would be needed to power the network completely on renewables for one year, a study by British Business Energy found.
What’s more, is that the number of solar panels needed would take up 11.29 square kilometres of space. That’s nearly the same size of the whole Kensingtonand Chelsea borough (12.1 square kilometres).
Eight Hyde Parks would be needed to fit the 5.6 million solar panels needed to power the Tube network for one year.
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More shocking stats
The alternative would be to use wind turbines, but this would prove pretty challenging too.
We’re talking 200 wind turbines to power the Underground for a year, requiring 26.4 square kilometres of space.
That’s nearly the size of Lambeth (26.8 square kilometres).
And if you thought eight Hyde Parks was an unbelievable enough amount of space – try and picture 18.6 Hyde Parks.
That is how much space would be needed for wind turbines to power the London Underground for a year.
Currently, TfL source electricity directly from the National Grid via the Crown Commercial Service.
And while the idea of changing the way electricity is supplied to the Tube network to create a greener system is a positive one, the feasibility of this is already being questioned.
British Business Energy founder Ian Wright said: “In coordination with the government’s plans to make the tube totally zero-emissions by 2030 at a time where Boris Johnson has recently announced his ambition for tubes to become driverless – costs and government funding will persist as the major challenge in allowing for a greener underground.
“If London is committed to making the tubes carbon neutral – the costly scale of implementing solar panels or wind turbines to assist with the tubes whopping annual energy consumption of 1,200,000,000 KWH will need to be considered as a major point from funders.”
Life may be feeling more normal as lockdown measures ease, but work life hasn’t changed that much for many of us.
Over half of UK businesses are working remotely in response to Covid-19, and 45% of works are expecting more flexibility post lockdown, according to the Office for National Statistics.
British Business Energy found that if 45% of commuters in London continued to work remotely after lockdown, the Underground could save over 467,195 kWh. This could power 46,000 London homes per day.
British Business Energy founder Ian Wright added: “The reality is that unless the government seizes the current opportunity to assist in allowing more Londoners to continue working from home i.e. by providing more support to businesses in the adoption of new technology and home working equipment, the strain on TFL services will be further reduced, creating the opportunity for carbon neutrality to be reached earlier without having to invest as much capital in renewable energy systems.”
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