Assessing Network Rail’s unused land for renewables development
As a part of the wider movement of reducing climate change, Network Rail has set carbon reduction targets for its non-traction activities aiming for a 25% reduction by the end of 2024. As a part of this, the company has identified sustainable land use as a way to offset or mitigate climate impacts; this could be achieved by developing renewable energy facilities on its existing unused land. As Network Rail is a large landowner, this meant there was the need to understand the potential of the unused land for use for renewable energy generation and/or storage.
RSK and subsidiary company ADAS were asked to provide a feasibility assessment for unused sites and spare land at depots in the Wales & Western region.
The RSK GIS team carried out a desk-based screening exercise to create a shortlist of potential sites to take forward for further assessment. This exercise used relevant criteria such as land parcel size, shape and proximity to infrastructure, designated areas and other environmental constraints. This was followed by a detailed desk-based study of the shortlisted sites that involved reviewing Ordnance Survey maps, aerial photography, local authority policy maps and other publicly available information.
As a result of the desk-based study, several sites were rejected on technical or environmental grounds while others were flagged for potential development as solar photovoltaic projects. ADAS and a specialist subcontractor were brought in to carry out a high-level economic assessment to provide further information on their potential generating capacity and financial viability.
The results of our feasibility assessment and desk-based studies helped Network Rail to identify which of its unused land parcels has the most potential to be developed for renewable energy and take forward further detailed technical investigations. Our experience in the renewables sector, its technical and financial requirements, and the constraints relating to the environment and planning enabled us to provide a service for the client identifying sites with real potential for development.