Your Back Yard, EbTech (an energy company specialising in the development and delivery of renewable energy products) and Kensa (an UK heat pump manufacturer) have been working together to put together a feasibility study into the possibility of using green spaces as a source of renewable energy. This would be done via the installation of Ground Source Heat Pumps in a project that combines the benefits of renewable energy, cheaper fuel for lower income families, and the creation of a fund to support community projects. Furthermore, there is also potential for playing field improvements as proper drainage systems could be installed at the same time as the Ground Source Heat Pumps, saving considerable time and money.

These improvements are essential as an average of 1 in 3 amateur matches were lost across the country in 2017/18, as a combination of wet weather and poor drainage combined to make sports pitches across the UK unusable. This is a serious problem as, according to the biggest grassroots survey ever conducted in 2015 by the FA, the quality and availability of pitches is the biggest factor in how often people play football. It’s also important that council-owned pitches are focused on as 83% of amateur football matches take place on council-run pitches, which the FA said were in an ‘abhorrent state’. In terms of the Ground Source Heat Pumps themselves, it is vital that a more renewable and cheaper energy source is invested in as more than 1 in 10 households live in fuel poverty, and the UK is currently on course to fail to achieve its 2020 renewable energy targets.

The aim of the project is to install Ground Source Heat Pumps beneath a sports field, park, or other green space near a location where there is a large end user. For example, the green space could be near a school, hospital, community centre, or block of council owned flats with a poor energy saving certificate. There is also the potential for a local community endowment fund to be created, as the scheme should generate a surplus. This could be used to fund energy efficiency projects at the micro/household level such as cavity wall insulation, LED schemes, solar panels, and double glazing, amongst others. Funds could also be made available to fund projects of a general community benefit, such as improvements to play areas, or support towards managing a community building. The fund would help ensure ‘buy in’ from the local community, and also make a significant contribution to reducing fuel poverty, particularly as pilot projects will be targeted at disadvantaged areas.

We have proposed that a 500kW ground source heat pump and district heating infrastructure is installed to allow the local social housing to take advantage of low cost renewable energy. It is predicted that 100 properties would benefit from the scheme.

Possible funding sources include the Renewable Heat Incentive, the Government’s Energy Company Obligation, Heat Networks Investment Project, LEP’s Energy Accelerator, and sport/community grants.

Your Back Yard have also met with a number of potential key stakeholder partners in the target areas for the pilot projects. They have all been extremely enthusiastic about the projects, and would be willing to work with us to develop the scheme in these initial stages. These stakeholders include the head of Sustainable Energy and Climate Change at Leeds City Council, the heads of Parks and Countryside at both Leeds and Bradford Council, and the sustainability manager at Incommunities Bradford, one of the largest social housing providers in the UK.

Overall, we hope the project will generate affordable renewable energy, improve sports pitches so that they can be used all year round and create a community endowment fund that can be used to invest in other projects and support domestic energy saving measures.