GHiGs Mini-Conference 2021: 27th April 2021 - Find out more and register

In August 2020 we launched a new research project to explore how we can transform our urban landscapes to support a low carbon future. Green Heat in Greenspaces (GHiGs) is a project within the overall ParkPower programme that builds on previous research. It brings together half of Scotland’s councils together with a wide range of public sector bodies to explore how urban greenspaces can support a Scottish low carbon heat transition.

GHiGs investigated the suitability of many types of urban open space across Scotland for use as low carbon heat sources, heat storage sites and heat transmission corridors. We defined 'urban open space' as any green or blue space within proximity of a settlement with a population of 500 or more. As such it included spaces within many relatively small towns and villages. It focused primarily on the potential of greenspaces to host solutions using heat pump technology and district heat networks based on their physical characteristics and proximity of location in relation to heat demand.

Project Outputs (March 2021)

GHiGs Settlement Profile Dashboard - mapping tool for profiling the suitability of Scotland's urban settlements for low carbon heat.

GHiGs Greenspace Profile Dashboard - mapping tool for profiling the suitability of Scotland's greenspaces for low carbon heat.

GHiGs Data Guide - documenting the data outputs from the GHiGs project

Project Documents (August 2020 - March 2021)

GHiGs project summary Aug20 (PDF)

GHiGs project partner list Aug20 (PDF)

GHiGs Meeting 1 11/08/20 slides (PDF)

GHiGs Meeting 2 15/09/20 slides (PDF)

GHiGs Meeting 3 08/12/20 slides (PDF)

Press release / Coverage in Project Scotland (Perth & Kinross Council)

Project Background

The impetus for the project stems from the broad array of public organisations looking to develop their climate action plans and strategies for asset decarbonisation. The decarbonisation of heat for both residential and commercial buildings is a major goal for the Scottish Government and one which, to date, has proved “a hard nut to crack”. Scotland will not meet its 2020 target of meeting 11% of heat demand from low carbon sources – this figure is closer to 6-7%. As a nation it is current positioned in the relegation zone of all EU countries for low carbon heat capacity so there is an urgent need to address this challenge through exploring different low carbon pathways.

To date the contribution that urban open space can make to achieve our low carbon ambitions has been somewhat over-looked. Some excellent examples of heat pump schemes utilising urban open space do exist including at Caird Park in Dundee and Saughton Park in Edinburgh. The new Biomes Project at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh will be heated by heat pumps from neighbouring greenspace while the recently operational Stirling District Heat Network uses greenspace along the River Forth to route its underground pipes. The iconic new V&A Museum  in Dundee is heated by 30 boreholes in its grounds while Cuningar Loop Park in Glasgow, managed by Forestry and Land Scotland, is home to a UK geothermal energy observatory led by the British Geological Survey. However there remain significant gaps and challenges to understanding the true capacity of utilising our urban open space for renewable heat, a key one being lack of clarity over land ownership.  At the same time we have seen rising interest of many public organisations with extensive land estates in understanding how their site portfolio can contribute towards their net zero targets.

ParkPower research to date has considered a wide range of appropriate green energy technologies for greenspace sites.  For those sites in an urban context, the most exciting opportunity that has emerged from this research is the potential of green and blue spaces to be utilised for generation, storage and transmission of low carbon heat.  The technologies that underpin this include the application of dedicated and shared loop heat pump systems using ground, water and air sources together with district heat networks to transfer heat to points of demand. Urban green and blue space is highly suited to supporting these solutions given its geographic proximity to points of high heat demand.

Working with an industry-leading technical partner in strategic heat masterplanning, Ramboll, the GHiGs project is using the Ordnance Survey’s most detailed mapping of urban greenspaces - OS Mastermap Greenspace. Already this data has highlighted the true scale of the opportunity: far from being dominated by grey space, our cities are in fact largely green, with coverage at over 60% in cities like Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh. 

The project will deliver a summary assessment of green heat potential for Scotland.  It will also provide custom reports to its core partners highlighting the most promising opportunities in their territory alongside supporting datasets to enable further in-house analysis. Final deliverables from the project are due in March 2021. 

Image courtesy of Clyde Gateway - Cuningar Loop Park (Glasgow), site of a UK geothermal observatory

GHiGs is focused largely on the low carbon heat pathway of electrification whether through more locally distributed solutions or those based on wider District Heat Networks. It is not currently looking at the potential to utilise hydrogen for low carbon heating - an alternative pathway. Our research suggests hydrogen should have a key role from 2030s onwards in meeting the needs of 'hard to reach' sectors like freight transport and aviation as summarised in a recent independent report on hydrogen potential as part of the EU Shifft Project by  the University of Exeter.

If you would like to know more about GHiGs please contact us at [email protected]

Top banner image: courtesy of Kensa Group - multiple high rise flats in Sunderland heated with ground source heat pumps using surrounding greenspace