A Solar Bridge Will Span the River Thames in England

A Victorian-era bridge in England is getting a new look – with over 4,400 solar PV panels.

The bridge, built in 1886, crosses the River Thames. Construction began this week on a new roof which will house over 6,000 square meters of solar PV panels, generating around 900,000 kilowatt hours of electricity every year and creating the biggest solar array in London.

The bridge is the foundation for a new railroad station, for which the solar panels will supply half the energy. The station will also feature rain harvesting systems and sun pipes for natural lighting.

London-based solar firm Solarcentury is building the project using SANYO Electric solar modules.

 Solar Bridge

"It’s absolutely unique. You’ve got a 19th century bridge with a 21st century roof," says Derry Newman, Solarcentury CEO. It should also prove that solar can be deployed in an environment not known for its sunshine, he adds.

Increased Renewables Challenging King Gas and Coal

The increasing use of renewables in the UK, especially wind, is giving king gas and coal a run for the money.

Rather than being used as the main power source, fossil fuels are more often needed just to fill in the gap when renewables don’t produce enough energy.

The country produced its most wind to date when the remnants of Hurricane Irene reached it in early September. Its 3,400 onshore and offshore wind turbines produced 4,500 megawatts (MW), supplying over 10% of the nation’s electricity.

That broke the previous record, recorded earlier this year, of  2,800 (MW).

"Wind is now providing enough power to supply nearly three and a quarter million homes in the UK," says Gordon Edge, RenewableUK’s Director of Policy.

The trade association expects UK’s wind capacity to grow 50% by late 2012, to 8,500 MW, when it supply 13% of the country’s electricity. 

The biggest challenge is the nation’s aging transmission grid, which is limiting the amount of renewables that can be added. Recently, National Grid actually had to pay wind farm operators in Scotland to switch off their turbines as overproduction threatened to block the grid at night, when demand typically falls.

"Over time intermittent generation will change the structure of gas plant returns as they face reduced running hours and less certainty as to when they are likely to generate," says Olly Spinks, director at consultancy Timera Energy, in an interview with Reuters.

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