THE latest phase of an innovate project to run railways using solar power could be coming to Winchester’s tracks.

Riding Sunbeams is progressing with its ambition of providing a direct supply of electricity for train services from trackside locations.

A pilot for the project, which operated as the first of its kind, began earlier this year in Aldershot through a partnership between Basingstoke Energy Co-operative, Network Rail, Community Energy South and climate change charity 10:10.

Work is already underway on drafting plans to implement two further sites, with one of these earmarked for the oil depot site in Micheldever. If progressed, a solar farm with the potential to generate up to two megawatts of energy, with an estimated saving of 45 tonnes of carbon per year, could be created.

Riding Sunbeams was discussed at an event organised by the Winchester Action on Climate Change Group at Winchester Discovery Centre, which was attended by more than 60 people.

Martin Heath, director of Basingstoke Energy Services Co-operative, said work has been done to build up plans solar farms in Micheldever and Basing. He said: “We are starting to identify the sites where we can build large scale solar farms directly connected to the railways.”

Discussing the site in Micheldever, Mr Heath said: “There is plenty of land around that area where we can build a substantial solar farm.”

He added: “It (energy output and costs) show the solar farm is both environmentally sustainable by delivering huge reductions in carbon and, of course, it is also financially stable because it generates huge volumes of cash which goes back to investors, goes back to the members and, importantly, is available for investment in other community projects.”

Last year, the Basingstoke Energy Co-op was asked to look at the technical and financial feasibility of building three large scale solar farms across Hampshire and Sussex. A planning application process has not been launched for the Micheldever site, however, it is hoped it can be progressed over the next 12 to 18 months.

Stuart Kistruck, director of route asset management for Network Rail’s Wessex Route, said: “Network Rail wants clean and affordable sources for its energy. Using trackside solar is a perfect solution. We have the demand, with have the land and we have the network. Community owned renewable energy that Riding Sunbeams can provide is an ideal solution for us.”

Community energy groups such as Basingstoke Energy Co-operative and Hampshire Renewable Energy Co-operative are groups of people coming together to generate, own, manage, or reduce consumption of energy. They predominantly focus on renewables using power from the wind, sun and rain.