The UK is one of the shining lights on wind energy. According to the article below, "wind power supplies more than a quarter of the UK’s electricity needs.The UK had the world’s largest fleet of offshore turbines until 2021, and is now second only to China. In 2022, 90 per cent of new global offshore wind was built in China and the UK, which are expected to lead the world until at least 2030".
This in itself should be cause for patting ourselves on the back, although the UK being an island certainly helps us here, as we are not short of offshore locations for wind turbines. However, is being a leading light enough, when there is so much more room to improve? Is it true that red tape is significantly slowing down the deployment of new wind turbines in the UK?
I have concerns that it may well be true. Certainly with landbased wind turbines, there are notorious difficulties in getting planning permission. The same is true for solar parks. However, is public opinion now at a point where this red tape needs to be cut away, or is it not just the red tape that is slowing down the deployment of these alternative energy solutions?
One area where I believe that there is a huge opportunity to expand the turbine or solar network is on farm land, yet it is very difficult to secure permissions to do so. However, I like wind turbines, and consider the lack of them around the countryside to be something that needs to be addressed.
According to public statistics, there are roughly 216,000 farm holdings in the UK, and they are very well spread out across the country: the utilised agricultural area is approximately 17.2 million hectares of land: 71% of the UK land total. That is a lot of space into which wind turbines and solar panels could be beneficially deployed. Such installations would allow localised power production across the entire network. There would also be a need for energy storage solutions such as electrolysers and hydrogen storage, and/or lithium and sodium ion batteries, for smoothing out supply and demand issues, but surely it could be a viable option?
As for the number of installations required at each farm, I have done some simple calculations:
The total UK energy demand is approximately 300 bn kWh per year. Already about 25% of that is provided by wind power. However, approximately 38% of that is provided by gas power stations. That latter power requirement (114 bn kWh per year) is the predominant supply, and it definitely need to be replaced with a greener solution. If using just wind turbines, each farm holding on average "only" needs to produce 1.4 million kWh per year. The good news is that this is easily achievable by a single large wind turbine. For example, a typical onshore wind turbine typically has a capacity of 2-3 megawatts (MW), which translates to about 6 million kWh of electricity per year - four times the amount needed! Therefore, if targeting the 114 bn kWh figure above (to achieve a replacement for the gas power stations), just one wind turbine per farm could be easily enough! Nevertheless, in reality there will be many locations where a smaller wind turbine will be more preferable, although that can be balanced by other locations where more than one large wind turbine can be accomodated very easily. As such, achieving the total demand seems to be very much plausible!
Putting my agritech head on, I also wonder whether this could be a way of making farmers' lives easier? Finances are already tight on farms, with grants being the lifeblood of many farms. However, if a farm was no longer to have electricity bills, replaced instead with free electricity, or a fixed reduction, and rent as compensation for siting the wind turbines, then farming might once again become profitable!
Food for thought...
#windturbines #agritech #alternativeenergy #netzero