Blackfriar’s Bridge, which is the largest solar bridge in the world and part of London’s Blackfriar’s railway station, is finally finished. Work on the structure started in 2009 as part of the worldwide energy conservation efforts. The bridge crosses the river Thames and the solar panels that now cover it were installed by the firm Solarcentury.
Blackfriar’s Bridge was fitted with 4,400 photovoltaic panels, more specifically Panasonic 250 Wp panels, which cover the total area of the bridge namely 19,685 square feet. The maximum output of the panels should reach 1.1 MWp (megawatt peak) and is expected to generate 900,000 kWh of electricity per year. This is expected to offset over 50% of the energy needed to power the railway station. The solar panels are fixed and south-facing. The setup will also offset CO2 emissions by an estimated 563 tons annually.
Turning Blackfriar’s Bridge into a solar bridge was also part of a larger refurbishment of the railway station, which was enlarged with several new platforms. To offset the power required for this expansion, the designers decided on the solar bridge to help with the energy needs. Installing the PV array was very difficult, however, since the builders had to installed them on an old, Victorian era bridge, with the railway operating as usual and the river Thames below them. They were faced with many unexpected setbacks, such as corrosion on the arches and being forced to strengthen the existing bridge before they could install the solar panels.
In addition to the overwhelming energy producing benefits of using solar panels, they also have design and architectural benefits. Since the solar arrays are generally unobtrusive, they blend well with the existing architecture. Another great advantage of solar panels, according to the company that completed the work on Blackfriar’s Bridge, is the fact that they can be fitted into even the most complex engineering projects, while they can also be installed over a construction site or a functioning railroad.
During the renovations, the railway station was also fitted with other energy saving measures such as a rain harvesting system and sun pipes that will provide natural lighting throughout the building.