London is working hard to host the greenest Olympic Games ever. As part of that ambitious plan, Blackfriars station platform will be extended and 4,400 solar panels will be installed on top of the bridge. The work began on Tuesday and has to be finished in time for the Olympics in 2012.
According to The Guardian the bridge was built in 1886 and a new Blackfriars station will be built on the bridge that spans the Thames river. Solarcentury, the company that will manage the installation of the solar panels, says that the solar array will be span a new roof that will be built over the historic bridge. Once the solar panels are in place, the Blackfriars bridge will be the world’s largest solar bridge.
Network Rail, the owners and operators of Britain’s railway system, are working to upgrade the bridge and station so that it can handle more trains and more passengers. When it is finished “the central London section of the route” will be able to handle 24 trains per hour, increasing the number of passengers that are able to travel the route.
Once installed the solar panels will generate “an estimated 900,000kWh of electricity every year. That’s enough to provide half the station’s power. Carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by “511 tonnes each year.” Other improvements that will save energy are a new rain harvesting system and the installation of “sun pipes” to provide natural light for the station.
"The Victorian rail bridge at Blackfriars is part of our railway history," [Lindsay Vamplew, Network Rail's project director for Blackfriars] said. "Constructed in the age of steam, we’re bringing it bang up to date with 21st century solar technology to create an iconic station for the city."
Blackfriars renovations will give visitors to the London Olympic games an illustration of how to blend historic and modern elements to create a more functional installation without the need to destroy the historic structure. For much of the world finding a way to blend the modern use of renewable energy with historic buildings may help municipalities rethink renewable energy.
Once the Briars station renovation is finished Network Rail may decide that other historic sections of its railway can be upgraded to include solar panels, cutting down on the company’s cost for electricity.