Evaluating the opportunity that could be provided by underutilised non-agricultural land as a source of bioenergy

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Given concerns regarding food security and land use changes, both direct and indirect, resulting from bioenergy production on agricultural land, a better understanding of the alternative land resources that may exist is required. The potential of 'marginal' land for bioenergy provision has been the subject of increasing research efforts. However, the marginal land discourse is problematically framed. One of the main issues pertains to the ambiguity of the terminology which has led to uncertainty regarding the sustainability of land found. Moreover, it is unclear to what extent non-agricultural land resources have been fully included by marginal land studies and what potential role they could play in providing bioenergy without impacting on agricultural production.An extended understanding of locality and distribution is especially important when assessing potential sites for bioenergy provision. With this in mind, a bottom-up GIS methodology was developed to assess the opportunity that may be provided by underutilised non-agricultural land. The methodology adapted categorisations of bioenergy potential used by Voivontas et al. (2001) and Slade et al. (2010) to focus on the non-agricultural landbank that is available in Scotland.Initially the theoretical landbank, the hypothetical maximum amount of land available, took the form of a spatial database of non-agricultural land. This involved the compilation of detailed datasets representing boundaries of brownfield, licensed landfills, historic landfill and abandoned mine land. This was followed by the application of a multicriteria evaluation which resulted in the technical landbank, the proportion ofthe theoretical landbank that could be more realistically considered for bioenergy provision based on a range of technical constraints. Further exploratory spatial data analysis was also undertaken to provide an insight into the distribution of clusters of this landbank and the relationship that may exist with heat demand.This research led to the identification of 24,862 hectares of underutilised non-agricultural land in Scotland in the theoretical landbank. This is the first attempt to produce a detailed spatial database of brownfield land at a national scale and the first quantification of the area of both licensed and historic landfill sites in Scotland. The 17,404 hectares of technical landbank represents the first time an assessment of non-agricultural land has been undertaken at this level of detail with the consideration of technical constraints, providing a better understanding of the role this land resource could play for a range of purposes.The work presented in this thesis provides the foundation for further research regarding the potential energy crop yields on this land resource, and, therefore, the contribution it could make towards Scotland's ambitious renewable heat targets.
Date of Award1 Jan 2017
LanguageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorRichard Lord (Supervisor) & Elsa Joao (Supervisor)

Cite this