New tool will help councils identify sites for green energy projects

A free new tool has been launched for local authorities to quickly identify potential locations for green energy projects including community-owned wind and solar farms.

Across London, the East and South East, 80% of local authorities have declared a climate emergency and most are creating energy plans. UK Power Networks, which distributes electricity in these areas, has combined 18 datasets in one place to help guide local authorities in finding future sites for community-owned wind and solar farms.

The new *IRENES tool at combines spatial and land use datasets for ground-based solar PV and onshore wind, over 18,000 square kilometres. It also takes into account physical characteristics such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and solar irradiance, data along with the existing local electricity network.

Data can easily be filtered, and layered with other useful Net Zero datasets in UK Power Networks’ Open Data Portal, to view the energy capacity currently available.Users can generate an easy-to-understand map, with traffic light colour coding showing locations for new projects.

This collaborative project is led by Anglia Ruskin University and University of East Anglia, and supported by UK Power Networks’ Distribution System Operator (DSO) and the Greater South East Net Zero Hub. It lives up to the ‘Energy Data Taskforce: A Strategy for a Modern Digitalised Energy System’ report commissioned by Government, Ofgem, and Innovate UK which sets out five key recommendations to modernise the UK energy system and drive it towards a Net Zero future. 

UK Power Networks’ funding quickly helped scale the original scope from five county councils, to 133 local authorities serving 5.6 million residents within just six months.

Lynne McDonald, head of Local Net Zero at UK Power Networks’ Distribution System Operator said:

“This partnership showcases our DSO’s collaboration across sectors to support local authorities in easily accessing essential data for their decarbonisation plans.

“It’s been a fantastic opportunity to exchange knowledge with our colleagues in energy, data and academia. We encourage local authorities to make the most of this new tool, shape our network investments and drive sustainable change together – empowered by data and digital tools for effective, place-based decision-making.”

Peter Gudde, Net Zero programme lead at Greater South East Net Zero Hub said:

“The Greater South East Net Zero Hub has been supporting the development of the IRENES Land Use Tool to enable locally developed renewable energy generation. We are pleased to see collaboration between two of the South East region’s leading universities and UK Power Networks Distribution System Operator in support of the public sector and their area commitments to facilitate Net Zero. We look forward building upon that cross-sector working relationship.”

As in previous years, Transport + Energy will be offering a number of fully funded places to representatives from local authorities who are in a role which is focused on the decarbonisation of transport, including energy, infrastructure, planning and highways at its upcoming Transport + Energy Forum.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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