Saughton Park is Edinburgh’s first green-powered park. By combining a micro-hydro scheme to generate electricity and ground source heat pumps to generate heat it utilises its natural assets in a sensitive way to decarbonise its energy demand and reduce its energy bills.

Saughton Park is one of Edinburgh’s hidden jewels. It has a large tract of well-managed open space with playing fields and an athletics track, the biggest skateboard park in Scotland and a modern creative play area. Spread over 48 acres it also has a delightful formal garden laid out in classic style.

In July 2013 the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) was awarded a £392,000 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) ‘Parks for People’ development grant which enabled the Council to develop a detailed Masterplan for the redevelopment and maintenance of the buildings and the greenspace. At the start of 2016 Edinburgh Council received additional funding to deliver the plans. The £8m restoration project focuses on the redevelopment of the landscape and horticultural elements of Saughton Park as well as the building and upgrade of existing recreational and visitor facilities. The Saughton Park restoration project was managed through the CEC Parks, Greenspace and Cemeteries service working closely with the CEC Sustainable Development Team.

To increase the value of Saughton Park as an asset, the masterplan also included renewable energy options and infrastructure. This early stage consideration for including green energy options into park master planning was supported through the ParkPower programme run by greenspace scotland. Saughton Park was the first ParkPower project, a pioneer that has demonstrated the important role that greenspace can play in transforming our current energy system.

As a fore-runner not just in Scotland but also at the UK scale, Saughton Park embodies the newly emerging model of a ‘low carbon park’. The development and design teams, together with technical partners , explored the potential of different green energy options. The utilisation of Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) technology using electricity from a microhydro scheme sited on the Water of Leith emerged as the most viable solution and was included in the masterplan to cut the park’s energy bills over the long-term. Initially, there was the potential to provide heat to other buildings around the park and connect the GSHP into an existing District Heat Network serving the local area.

However technical issues arose linked to the cost of extending the pipes over longer distances including across a river and main road. As a result this option was deemed to be commercially unviable. Plans were scaled back to focus on providing a low carbon heat solution via two GSHPs for the park which were estimated to save about 72 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. The construction of the two GSHP is now complete although visitors to the park will be none-the-wiser. There is no visible evidence of their existence.

The heating solution are constructed using two different ground loop solutions. One heat pump uses 12 vertical boreholes of around 150m deep located under a car park. The other uses horizontal trenches at about 1.5m below the surface covering one half of a football pitch. Each solution creates higher grade heat, circa 50C from low grade heat, circa 5Cderived from the ground. The heat from both GSHPs provides a low carbon heating solution for the park’s visitor facilities, cafe and greenhouses. The construction of the microhydro system on an existing weir on the Water of Leith started in May 2019. The small-scale hydro system uses an Archimedes Screw Turbine to generate electricity by taking advantage of the water flow. The 10m long, 10- tonne hydro plant will have a capacity of 39kW and is designed to feed power to the two GSHP to offset their electricity demand together with the park’s lighting and buildings. The hydro scheme is due for completion in January 2020 and will prevent more than 90 tonnes of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere each year.

The Saughton Park energy schemes were funded through bringing together six different funding sources all with different requirements and durations. The complexity of the funding solution did contribute to some significant project challenges. The main funding for the park redevelopment came from the Heritage Fund. Other contributors included Sustrans, Scottish Energy Efficiency Programme, Salix Finance and Scottish Power’s Green Economy Fund. The latter contributed approximately £500k to install the micro-hydro project.

The project has had strong backing from the local community through the park Friends group and politically from local councillors and CEC management. It is hoped the new energy solution for Saughton will cut the park’s annual fuel bills by approximately £15k. The scheme is not eligible to claim the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) as a potential long-term income source due to its public grant contributions but it does qualify for ROO-FIT in relation to electricity generated by the micro-hydro project.

The renewable energy project at Saughton Park is one of CEC’s Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP) projects. CEC are currently working on 120 different projects as part of their city-wide SEAP due to last until 2020. These include energy efficiency measures, creating and extending district heating schemes, developing sites for renewable generation largely based on rooftop solar PV, and addressing sustainable transport options. They have created an ‘arms-length’ Energy Services Company (ESCo) although this remains in its infancy at the current time.

Saughton Park is Edinburgh’s first fully green-powered park and CEC are interested in exploring how ParkPower style projects like Saughton Park can be replicated across their portfolio of land assets, including within other parks, around the city to support the Scottish Government’s energy strategy to decentralise and decarbonise our energy systems.

Read the Saughton Park case study PDF

Supported as one of the Rethinking Parks prototyping projects, ParkPower is a data-driven approach, working at a Scotland-wide scale, to identify the parks with most potential to support green energy infrastructure. It will be showcasing the range of energy opportunities in parks and exploring the potential to generate income and savings from and for our greenspaces.

For more information about ParkPower please see If you are interested in knowing more, or would like to get involved in the project, please email [email protected].