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Greenspaces for green energy

How heating homes could be a walk in the park

Overview

Greenspace is the urban ecosystem – protecting our biodiversity, our physical and our mental health.

Greenspaces are also, according to Scotland’s parks and greenspace charity, greenspace scotland, a potential source of local green energy.

ParkPower is a Scotland-wide programme, led by greenspace scotland, exploring the contribution parks and greenspaces can make to decarbonising the energy system.

As well as supplying heat to homes and businesses, it is hoped that any operational schemes could also provide an income stream to reinvest back into the greenspaces – and the community groups helping maintain them – further helping protect these valuable public assets.

Challenge

The Scottish Government is committed to making Scotland a net zero society by 2045 – reducing emissions by 70% by 2030 (compared with 1990 figures).

A rapid take-up in a mix of low carbon heat technology solutions will be required.

These technologies, even at a small scale, tend to require undeveloped physical space close to the point of energy demand to make them economically viable – hence the value of urban greenspace.

Solution

Many imagine our towns and cities to be predominantly grey spaces made up of buildings, roads and other ‘hard’ areas. The OS MasterMap Greenspace dataset has played a fundamental role in dispelling this myth, demonstrating that over 60% of cities like Edinburgh and Aberdeen are, in fact, greenspace.

Greenspace data in Aberdeen

For practical purposes, the ParkPower research to date has largely focused on a subset of OS Open Greenspace sites – parks and playing fields. In Aberdeen, for example, these sites represent less than 8% of the city’s area. If only 20% of this space is considered to be ‘viable’ across Scotland, it could still generate 4,600Gwh of renewable heat – enough to keep over 380,000 homes warm – that’s more than all homes in Glasgow and Dundee combined. A follow up research project, Green Heat in Greenspaces (GHiGs), will be looking to use the OS MasterMap Greenspace dataset to revise this figure.

"The availability of OS Greenspace data was a key enabler of our ParkPower programme"
Julie Procter, greenspace scotland’s Chief Executive

OS Greenspace has been a critical ingredient in the ParkPower project. It provides accurate data on the location, size and type of all Scotland’s greenspaces – the potential energy supply. It’s enabled a strategic exercise to be undertaken for the first time, in order to assess the potential of these spaces to support renewable energy generation and the hosting of new infrastructure.

The potential to supply and transport heat to nearby homes and businesses through solutions using heat pumps and district heat networks quickly rose to the top as the most exciting opportunity.

Key to quantifying the potential benefits of low carbon heat from greenspaces was the Scottish Government’s HEAT map, which enables users to measure heat demand across small areas Scotland-wide. Bringing this ‘demand data’ together with ‘supply data’ through OS Greenspace enabled greenspace scotland to build up a picture of the potential to use greenspace assets to generate and deliver low carbon heat.

greenspace scotland is now following up this earlier project with more detailed research focusing specifically on the potential to support low carbon heat. The ‘Green Heat in Greenspaces’ (GHiGs) project will borrow insights from previous work to analyse the potential of all of Scotland’s greenspace through the application of OS MasterMap Greenspace data.

Benefits

As well as generating green power and heat, these sites could also be used to host recharging facilities for electric vehicles, with 25% of greenspaces found to be suitable. Greenspace locations near major traffic route intersections were found to be particularly attractive.

Another potential benefit of ParkPower schemes is through local community engagement and educational opportunities – local ‘friends’ groups and individuals can get ‘up close and personal’ with engineering projects that are pioneering climate change adaption. Awareness can be raised about sources of energy and the importance of energy conservation in the home and local area. People will hopefully feel inspired to join in and take action.

"The Parkpower method, while developed in Scotland, could be applied anywhere across Great Britain, using OS Greenspace"
Julie Procter, greenspace scotland’s Chief Executive

The potential to power and heat homes and businesses using clean, green, locally produced energy from greenspaces presents a major opportunity for owners of these spaces when responding to climate change and net zero carbon ambitions – both in Scotland, and beyond.

The value of our public greenspace needs to be reassessed not only in the light of the key role they played during the Covid-19 pandemic but also in terms of their significant potential to enable us to achieve our climate change targets. These urban spaces can act as vital low carbon energy generators and highways within our densely populated towns and cities.

Love parks?

Join in at greenspacescotland.org.uk to see how you can help turn parks into community power stations.

To find greenspaces near you, explore OS Greenspace.

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