The UK was the first major economy to legislate to achieve net zero and work is already underway to ensure the UK achieves this by 2050 and thereby eliminate our country’s contribution to climate change. The Government is working to decarbonise the UK's electricity by 2035, and renewable technology is an important part of that strategy. This includes the Government’s commitment to delivering 50GW of offshore wind by 2030, alongside the expansion of other renewable technologies.
Today there are more than 1,500 operational onshore wind farms across Great Britain, generating over 12 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity for the national electric system. In 2020 onshore wind contributed 11% of the UK’s electricity needs, with a total 34.7 terawatt hours (TWh) generated – more than enough to power 18.5 million UK homes for an entire year.
Onshore wind farms produce less energy than their offshore counterparts (called their ‘capacity factor’) because onshore planning often limits the turbines' ‘tip heights’, which doesn’t apply to offshore turbines. An average onshore wind turbine produces around 2.5 to 3 megawatts (MW), in comparison to the offshore average of 3.6 MW.
However, the Government plans to introduce changes to the planning system in England whereby planning permission for onshore wind would depend upon a project commanding local support and being able to satisfactorily address any impacts identified by the local community. The Government consultation is being analysed.
Separately, the Government has said that it will seek views on developing local partnerships for supportive communities to enable those who would like to host new onshore wind to benefit, for example through lower energy bills.
The Energy White Paper stated that there will need to be sustained growth in the capacity of onshore wind over the next decade alongside solar and offshore wind. Therefore, the Government announced that onshore wind and other established renewable technologies such as solar PV will be able to compete in the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme. The Government has recently confirmed a budget of £205 million for the fifth allocation round of the CfD scheme.
Furthermore, the Hydrogen Strategy made clear that Scotland has a key role to play in the development of a UK hydrogen economy, with the potential to produce industrial-scale quantities of hydrogen from offshore and onshore wind resources, wave and tidal power, as well as with Carbon Capture Usage and Storage. The Energy Security Strategy also indicates that there will be 12,000 jobs in the UK hydrogen industry by 2030 – 3,000 more than previously expected.