European solar experts brand UK’s decision to cut financial incentives as ‘short-sighted’

Solar panels on tunnel covering train track in Belgium

A groundbreaking project unveiled in Belgium features 16,000 solar panels installed on top of a two mile long railway tunnel.  The line near Antwerp is now powering electricity into the Belgian railway and is generating enough energy to power 4,000 trains.

“For train operators, it is the perfect way to cut their carbon footprints – they can use spaces that are of no economic value and the projects can be delivered within a year because they don’t attract the protests that wind power does,” Bart Van Renterghem, UK head of Belgian Enfinity, the firm behind the tunnel, told the Guardian.

Solar infrastructure on large scale projects would work in the UK, but, Van Renterghem told SkyNews, the coalition Government’s cuts to solar feed-in-tariffs make it unviable.

“We had a couple of projects lined up around London with train operators and water utilities, that have now been put on hold due to the Government cuts in support for solar.  Apparently the UK Government is more concerned about the Treasury than the mid to long term carbon reduction commitments that they have.  I think it is short-sighted.  It is going to remain a small market and the  solar potential will not be realised.”

The new Blackfriars station in London, which will span the River Thames, will potentially host the largest single collection of solar panels in the UK when it open in Spring 2012.  The roof of the new station will have 4,400 panels, and a capacity of 1MW, enough to provide 50% of the station’s electricity.   This has been funded by the government’s Environment Fund – but similar projects, innovative and creative on industrial sites are at risk due to the government’s 70% cuts in feed-in-tariffs – putting solar over 50kW at risk.

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