Finland’s State Railway Company VR Launches Green Energy Production

Finland’s state railway company VR Group has entered into the field of energy production.

VR has installed a solar panel array at its Helsinki depot. Its energy will be used to maintain its fleet using renewable electricity. The solar power plant went into operation in late 2020 and is now one of the largest in the country with a rated output of 928 kWp. The solar power system was a joint effort between VR Group’s property unit and its subsidiary VR FleetCare, which is responsible for maintaining the group’s rolling stock.

New solar panels on the roof of VR's Helsinki depot, Pendolino Hall
New solar panels on the roof of VR’s Helsinki depot, Pendolino Hall

The solar panels have been installed on the roof of Pendolino Hall. There are 2,264 solar panels in total. The electricity will go towards the maintenance of VR’s fleet of Sm3 Pendolino multiple units. The solar panels are able to cover roughly a quarter of the hall’s annual electricity needs. On sunny days the solar panels produce more electricity than the hall consumes and on those days the electricity is used elsewhere in the train depot.

The decision to install the solar panels is part of a wider endeavour by the company to become more energy efficient. Other initiatives include defrosting solutions that use less water and optimising the energy efficiency of the company’s operations.

Juha Ohvo, Chief Security Officer, VR FleetCare, said:

“Pursuant to our vision, we are on a journey to become the best in the world. In addition to the particularly important environmental values, building a solar power plant is also a financially profitable project for us. After a one-time investment, the energy produced with the plant is practically free. In the longer term, the total annual radiation of the sun varies only a little, which means that even with the investment cost, the price of the energy produced remains locked far into the future.”

VR has already been using a large proportion of renewables to power its fleet.

Martti Jalkanen, Energy Expert and Maintenance Manager at the depot, said:

“It was interesting to lead the first solar power project that was realised for VR Group, and for the maintenance company VR FleetCare, in particular. The solar power plant is one of the flagship projects of our responsibility programme and increasing renewable energy is also in line with Finland’s energy and climate objectives.

“In the future, solar power systems could also be built elsewhere in the VR Group properties, since there is plenty of unutilised roof surface. We have increased the use of renewable energy in the properties by switching from oil heating to geothermal heat at many sites. The use of heat pumps continues to have significant potential.”

The solar power plant at the Helsinki depot was built by Solnet Finland.

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