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44 days ago


Industry News


New analysis shows England has the space onshore to become a green energy “superpower”.

The study by Friends of the Earth reveals England could produce 13 times more renewable energy than it does now, while using less than 3% of its land.

Friends of the Earth has worked with the UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Environmental Intelligence based at the University of Exeter to identify the land that could be most suitable for new onshore renewable energy.

To do this, the study identified the land that is less suitable for onshore wind or solar farms, although developments may still be possible in these areas with care.

Using a conservative approach, the study identified 2198 square kilometres of land most suitable in England for onshore wind (1.7% of all land) and 2950 square kilometres for solar farms (2.3% of all land).

This is equal to 2.9% of land overall due to much land being suitable for both and has the theoretical potential to equal 95,542GWh of onshore wind energy and 130,421GWh of solar energy per year.

The local authority areas with the most renewable energy potential within 5km of existing electricity grid substations, compared with the total existing energy consumption, include North Yorkshire, East Riding of Yorkshire, West Lindsey, Cumberland and East Lindsey.  

If this capacity was fully developed (although the study does not advocate for this due to the abundance of offshore energy potential also available) and if wind was prioritised above solar on sites that are suitable for both, this land would produce more than 12 times the current onshore wind and solar electricity generation across England.

Gemma Grimes, Director of Policy and Delivery at the trade association Solar Energy UK, said: “Friends of the Earth’s welcome report is a good illustration of the wide suitability of land for solar development.

“If we assume that the same ratio of ground-mounted to roof-mounted developments that we see today continues – roughly 2:1 in terms of capacity – we would need about 35GW of new solar farms to reach the Government’s goal of reaching 70GW by 2035.

“That would mean that deployment would extend to a fraction of the area marked out in the study, while still offering lower bills, a more secure energy supply and benefits for wildlife.”

Friends of the Earth recommends several policies and policy changes to rapidly grow onshore renewable energy in England.

These include removing, in its entirety, the de-facto planning policy ban on onshore wind and also apportioning “great weight” to renewables developments within National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)/future National Development Management Policies (NDMPs).

The study also advocated for scrapping the statutory pre-application requirement for more than two turbines/any turbines with a hub height of over 15 metres, with best practice community engagement principles used instead.

Local authorities in England should identify “suitable areas” for renewable energy in their Local Plan and/ or Local Area Energy Plan as soon as possible if they haven’t already, according to the study.

This should be done either through Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) until Levelling Up and Regeneration Act regulations come into play, or through Local Development Orders, Neighbourhood Development Orders or Community Right to Build Orders.

The data analysis Friends of the Earth has carried out should assist them in identifying suitable areas.

The UK government should publish a map of pre-assessed areas for wind and solar in England where applications proposed within these areas would benefit from a presumption in favour of development.

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