FRENCH National Railways (SNCF) has created SNCF Renewables, a new subsidiary that will install solar panels on disused railway land with the aim of providing between 15% and 20% of SNCF’s total energy consumption by 2030.

SNCF is both one of the biggest landowners in France and one of the country’s largest energy consumers, requiring 9TWh of electricity a year to power 15,000 trains day or 80% of its total operations, and supply 3000 stations and many other railway buildings.

As it works to double traffic by 2040, SNCF is now to working to generate 1000MWp  from solar power by 2030. This will be provided in part by installing solar panels in sections up to 30km long along the 7000km of disused trackbed still in SNCF ownership.

The national operator’s station operating subsidiary SNCF Gares & Connexions has already been working with Tenergie to install solar panels in station car parks, which are expected to produce a total of 30MWp.

SNCF Gares & Connexions has also installed solar panels on station roofs and platform canopies at locations including Paris Nord and Nîmes Pont du Gard.

Compared with 2015 levels, the French national operator is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from train operations by 30% and those from buildings by 50% by 2030.

To this end, its passenger operating business SNCF Voyageurs has signed a 25-year contract with Voltalia which will supply energy produced by a new wind farm now under construction in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwest France.

Due to be commissioned during the first half of 2024, the Rives Charentaises site will have 17 turbines capable of generating a total of up to 37.4MW. It will produce around 78GWh a year, 1.4% of the total traction energy requirement of SNCF Voyageurs.

SNCF Voyageurs is aiming to source between 40% and 50% of its traction energy from renewables by 2026.