About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

A lake and water source heat pump in Lochore Meadows Country Park

Water source heat pump to heat Visitors Centre, Lochore Meadows, Fife

What’s the idea?

Our parks are starting to be seen as our natural health service, our children’s outdoor classrooms and our cities’ green lungs. Perhaps in the future, we will also think of green spaces as our community power stations.

The ParkPower project is exploring the potential for parks to provide energy-related services and support green energy infrastructure. This offers opportunities to develop new income streams and long-term savings for our parks and green spaces.

Using a range of data sources, including the new Ordnance Survey Greenspace mapping and Scotland’s Heat Map, the ParkPower project is developing a strategic, Scotland-wide approach to identify green spaces with potential to provide energy services and enable the transformation towards a low carbon economy.

Who is working on the project?

Greenspace Scotland are working closely with Ramboll, a European consultancy with expertise in energy-based engineering projects and district heat networks. Scottish Councils are involved through the Park Managers' Forum, and we are working closely with two pilot authority partners, Fife Council and Falkirk Council, to develop and test the method. Other partners include Local Energy Scotland and Scottish Power.


Across the UK, parks are feeling the pinch. The challenge is to find ways of generating income from and for our parks which don’t impact adversely on their value together with people’s use and enjoyment. We believe ParkPower could be part of the answer.

The ParkPower Programme builds on our early feasibility work at Saughton Park, Edinburgh, which led to a ground source heat system and micro-hydro scheme being installed. Inspired by the potential for park energy, we started to think about how we could use national datasets together with a prototyping approach to work more strategically, and at scale, to identify potential ParkPower sites across a local authority’s green-space portfolio, across urban Scotland or even the whole of Britain.

Alongside the desire to sustain Scotland’s parks, there is also a strong policy driver. Scotland is aiming to generate 50 per cent of all power from renewable sources by 2030 and, by 2050, to have decarbonised its energy system almost completely. Alongside these commitments is the First Minister’s recent declaration of the climate emergency which sets a net-zero carbon emissions target for 2045 with interim targets of a 70 per cent reduction by 2030 and a 90 per cent reduction by 2040.

Green spaces offer the potential to make a significant contribution to this energy transformation and, in doing so, can boost their value and provide new sources of income.

What’s happened so far?

Our proposal for Rethinking Parks was based on detailed project stages, which we have reviewed through an iterative process with project partners, industry experts and local authority colleagues. Feedback from park managers, energy and sustainability managers, property managers and planners has been incorporated into data analysis and modelling.

The methodology has been streamlined to reflect available time and resources, analytical methods have been modified and datasets prioritised. An unexpected challenge was how long it takes to secure data agreements. We decided to prioritise the use of national, publicly available datasets.

The project has worked with stakeholders to explore potential energy opportunities across six types of parks within our two pilot areas. We have agreed our technology options and data modelling process and are currently refining and testing the methodology to grade a national portfolio of sites according to their potential for green energy infrastructure.

How will other parks learn from your work?

Regular project updates are being made available through the Greenspace Scotland monthly e-bulletin and at www.parkpower.org.uk.

Early project outputs include a report on energy technology options for parks, case studies, global inventory of green-space energy projects and graphics to allow third parties to understand the potential of a ParkPower-enabled park.

Later-stage outputs will include a full methodology report for ‘green space energy opportunity mapping’, enabling application at a local authority level, an online mapping application indicating potential project opportunities in green spaces across Scotland, and a ‘ParkPower Project Guide’ providing a practical manual on how to identify opportunities, approaches to progress them and additional technical, organisational, legal and financial considerations.

An event towards the end of 2019 will showcase all outputs from the project and plans for future progress.

Want to know more? Get in touch with the ParkPower team at [email protected].