Queen’s Quay, Scotland: district heating

The River Clyde now is the source of 100% carbon-free energy for an ambitious urban regeneration project in West Dunbartonshire, UK. Ramboll delivered a master plan and feasibility study for the Queen's Quay development.
The £15m energy project is one of the UK’s most exciting initiatives within low-carbon heat delivery and is expected to cut more than 4,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions yearly, making Clydebank one of the greenest towns in Scotland. The entire area of Queens Quay will be heated with water from the River Clyde which will be extracted by Scotland’s biggest large-scale water source heat pump
The John Brown Shipyard in West Dunbartonshire on the outskirts of Glasgow was once the birthplace of some of the world’s most iconic ocean liners and war ships produced for the British Royal Navy.
Yet, after its bustling heyday in the first half of the 20th century, the area fell into disuse when the shipyard closed in 1971.
Since 2017, a £250 million urban regeneration project has breathed new life into the area, with ambitions of turning it into a modern waterside development known as Queens Quay.
Central to these ambitions is a new energy centre, which will supply the 80-acre mixed-use development with 100% carbon-free district heating from the River Clyde.
A first in Scottish low-carbon heating
As the largest water-source heat pump district heating scheme in Scotland, the state-of-the-art system extracts water from the river and raises the temperature using heat pumps. The heat is then distributed by underground insulated pipes to local homes and businesses.
Replacing natural gas boilers, the new system avoids more than 2,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually. As the first large-scale heat pump of its kind in Scotland, the project was showcased at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021.
“The people of Clydebank will see the benefits of this pioneering project for generations to come. The system has been designed to not only serve the developments at Queens Quay but has the potential to serve businesses and houses further afield. It will also make a major contribution towards the Council’s climate change targets to reduce CO2 emissions,” said then Clydebank Councillor Marie McNair.
Supporting West Dunbartonshire’s net zero strategy
Ramboll was appointed by the West Dunbartonshire Council to deliver a master plan and feasibility study, funded by the Scottish government-supported organisation Zero Waste Scotland.
“Seeing the project come to life is a great milestone not only for the local community, but also for Ramboll. We have worked with the West Dunbartonshire Council on this project for approximately five years and being able to contribute with our knowledge in district heating and low-carbon energy has been a great honour for us”, said Paul Steen, head of district energy at Ramboll when the plant opened in 2021.
“I believe Queens Quay will become a world-class reference and inspiration for other communities exploring low-carbon heat delivery. The project will provide lessons for future projects, and we commend the whole team for overcoming many technical challenges: from designing a system compatible with existing buildings, to inhibiting the potential risks caused by mussels forming within the heat exchangers,” he added.
In West Dunbartonshire, energy from buildings accounts for 44% of the carbon budget. This project is the first step to decarbonise heating in the Council’s 20 year strategy to reach net zero emissions by 2045.
Residents and businesses at Queens Quay also benefit from lower utility bills, as the heat pumps provide far cheaper heat than the old gas boilers.
Rivers could meet 80% of Scotland’s heat needs
Owned and operated by West Dunbartonshire Council and supported with funding from the Scottish Government, the £15 million Queens Quay project demonstrates the huge potential for cities to be heated by rivers.
A study by charity greenspace Scotland and Ramboll found urban rivers and greenspaces could supply nearly 80% of Scotland’s heat needs, saving 4.7 million tonnes CO2e. That is equivalent to removing 60% of Scotland’s car fleet from the roads for a year.
Underscoring the urgent need to decarbonise heating, the International Energy Agency recommends a 2025 deadline to phase out the sale of new gas boilers globally to stay on track for net zero emissions by 2050.
As a global leader in low-carbon district heating, Ramboll has over 40 years of experience from more than 200 systems worldwide, providing a one-stop-shop of energy solutions. We assist clients throughout the whole project life cycle, from feasibility and planning to construction and operation.

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  • Guy Milligan

    Head of Department - District Energy

    +44 7583 107816

  • Lucy Padfield

    Director, District Energy

    +44 7967 799431