A two-mile-long Belgian rail tunnel, built to shelter trains from falling trees, will from Monday provide a double environmental benefit by hosting a unique solar power project.
The high-speed line running from Paris to Amsterdam passes Antwerp and a nearby ancient forest. To avoid the need to fell protected trees, a long tunnel was built over the line which has now been topped with 16,000 solar panels. The electricity produced is equivalent to that needed to power all the trains in Belgium for one day per year, and will also help power Antwerp station.
"For train operators, it is the perfect way to cut their carbon footprints because you can use spaces that have no other economic value and the projects can be delivered within a year because they don't attract the protests that wind power does," said Bart Van Renterghem, UK head of Belgian renewable energy company Enfinity, which installed the panels.
"We had a couple of projects lined up around London with train operators and water utilities, but they have been put on hold."
Van Renterghem said this was due to the UK government's controversial review of subsidies for large-scale solar power projects, which will lower the returns available.
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