London Welcomes World's Largest Solar-Powered Bridge

The energy generated by the 4,400 solar panels atop Blackfriars Bridge will prevent 511 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year.

(Photo: Richard Newstead/Getty Images)

Jan 28, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Salvatore Cardoni holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.

Iconic London landmarks Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben will probably always top the must-visit list for casual city tourists. But for granola-minded visitors, there might just be a new top-dog attraction—Blackfriars Bridge, the world’s largest solar-powered bridge.

The roof of the bridge, first built in 1886, was recently retrofitted with 4,400 solar photovoltaic panels covering 6,000 square meters. Capable of generating up to 900,000 kilowatt hours of clean energy annually, the panels will supply half the power needed to run the Blackfriars tube station each year.

Officials at the firm behind the project, SolarCentury, estimate the panels will prevent 511 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year. That’s equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 106 cars.

"Electric trains are already the greenest form of public transport—this roof gives our passengers an even more sustainable journey," David Statham, director of First Capital Connect, the group that manages London’s rail transport, told Business Green.

Others involved with the solar overhaul said they hoped the panels would serve as an outsize advertisement for citywide sustainability efforts. "The fact that it's so visual is a real bonus," said SolarCentury’s Suzanna Lashford. "London often tries to be a sustainable city, and I think it's great from that point of view."

The most obvious place to start that green makeover would be Buckingham Palace, the main residence for British royals since the 1830s. In 2009, the 775-room palace topped a “dirty dozen” list of most environmentally damaging buildings in the city, earning a score of zero out of 10 on an energy efficiency scale. “Thermal imaging technology, used to identify and measure energy waste, showed heat pouring through the closed curtained windows of the historic treasure,” wrote The Daily Mail.

A low-hanging-fruit idea to offset that waste would be for the palace to take a cue from Blackfriars Bridge and install solar panels on its sprawling, 15,400-square-meter roof.

The ball is in your court, Queen Elizabeth.