Community energy scheme on track for growth

Solar panels are being installed at three rail depots which could generate enough energy to make over 47 million cups of tea.

The cooperative energy agreement – between Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and community climate action group Energy Garden – will see almost 6,000 solar panels put on train shed roofs in London and Sussex. The aim is to provide local sources of renewable energy and funding for community development projects.

While one of the schemes is predicted to generate over 330 MWh (megawatt hours) of energy a year, Energy Garden and GTR expect the two larger installations to produce a further 1.7 GWh (gigawatt hours) each year.

The panels are projected to save over 9,000 tonnes of CO2 and generate 42.6 GWh of electricity over a 20-year period, with the profits from energy sales being invested in community development.

Approximately 50 per cent of the electricity generated will be sold directly to GTR to power their depots. Energy Garden will export the remainder to other businesses keen to improve their community and sustainability credentials. As a not-for-profit organisation, Energy Garden will then invest surplus income over and above the project costs into local community development. Energy Garden works with more than 50 community groups across London’s rail network.

The new contracts follow a successful trial partnership with Energy Garden and Network Rail at GTR’s Streatham Hill depot in South London, where over 500 solar panels were installed on the roof in 2021. Last year the PV array at Streatham Hill generated 215 MWh of energy.

Agamemnon Otero, Founder and CEO of Energy Garden, said: “The partnership between GTR and Energy Garden has changed the UK railway for ever. The Streatham Hill Depot solar project demonstrated the power of community-owned solar to passengers and is now funding social and environmental transformation in London. With this new franchise agreement of 2.5MW of community-owned solar power, Energy Garden and GTR continue to set an example for a more sustainable railway.”

Jason Brooker, Head of Environment at GTR, commented: “We already take measures such as ensuring all the electricity we use across our stations and depots comes from green energy tariffs using renewable energy assets, as well as looking at our efficiency – from the LED lights to the way we heat our offices.

“Creating our own energy through the solar panel network is the next logical step.”

Energy Garden is a Community Benefit Society that invests in renewable energy infrastructure to support community development. Its aim is to empower communities and young people to take climate action into their own hands by owning renewable energy and greening London’s transport infrastructure. The initiative was founded by Agamemnon Otero MBE, and has 20 gardens across London’s railways. It has collaborated with around 50 community groups this year.

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