14 June 2022

Following the Paris Climate Agreement, the UK Government is committed to achieving net zero by 2050. Onshore wind is at the heart of this strategy, however, it is clear that a substantive effort needs to be made to repower existing wind turbines and open new onshore wind farms.

Research by the Centre for Alternative Technology in their ‘Zero Carbon Britain’ report suggests the UK needs wind turbines essentially “covering an area twice the size of Wales” to meet this net-zero goal. While renewables are now outperforming fossil fuels as the UK’s primary power source, only a quarter of this comes from onshore wind.

By 2050, our energy usage is expected to more than double, leading to an increased need for even more renewable power sources. Recent announcements by the government mean that onshore wind farms will now be able to compete for clean power contracts to help meet this net-zero emission target. The current energy crisis also shows the need for more affordable energy, which would be achieved with renewables like onshore wind.

Wind Farms in the UK

Wind power is considered amongst the fastest growing renewable energy sources in the UK. As the cost of installation is falling, we’re seeing more wind farms being developed than ever before. Research from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) suggests that the world’s onshore and offshore wind capacity has increased 75 times compared to what it was two decades ago. It jumped from 7.5 GW in 1997 to 743 GW by the end of 2020.

It’s worth noting that wind turbines have a typical lifespan of up to 25 years, meaning thousands of wind turbines already need to be recommissioned or repowered. The UK needs more wind farms not only to meet growing demand but to fill the gap that will appear when current wind turbines meet their expiry date. Wind farms will allow the UK to continue to grow its renewable energy capacity and create a sustainable system.

The current energy crisis shows the need for the renewable energy market to continue expanding. If you have existing land that you could lease to a developer, it can reduce energy bills and earn you a form of passive income if you sell excess energy back to the National Grid.

How Wind Turbines Cut Emissions

When we think about achieving net zero, we have to look for renewable energy sources that offer ‘clean energy’. Wind turbines are an ideal solution for cutting emissions as they don’t require water and lower carbon emissions by reducing the need for fossil fuels. Throughout its whole lifespan, wind turbines have a low reliance on carbon emissions – even during production.

Choosing the optimum positioning of your wind turbines can give you a higher ROI and produce the optimum amount of electricity. Achieving this means that your wind farm will require a smaller backup system to ensure uninterrupted service. 

Wind farms are an investment that makes a quick return. Research suggests that the average wind turbine will produce enough energy to offset its cost within up to eight months of being deployed.

Over the last decade, the wind energy market has seen extensive expansion thanks to technological innovation that is estimated to have quadrupled its size. As such, onshore and offshore wind has become one of the most cost-efficient and reliable renewable energy sources. However, most of this development has happened in the United States and China but the UK remains a leader in wind power.

Using Wind Power to Achieve Net Zero

It’s clear that the UK needs to scale its wind power capacity to meet its net zero target. The renewable energy industry believes that onshore wind needs to hit 30GW by 2030 to make net zero achievable by 2050. One GQ of onshore wind will be enough to power 650,000 homes. In 2020, the UK’s onshore wind capacity sat at 13.7 GW.

There is extensive public demand for renewable energy. Polling by YouGov found that renewable energy has the most overwhelming amount of public support from the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Green Industrial Revolution Plan.

While the Committee on Climate Change suggest that onshore capacity should hit 29GW by 2030, there were only 23 new onshore wind projects installed in the UK during 2019. These projects added only 0.6GW to the UK’s capacity – marking a sharp decline from the 405 onshore projects that were developed in 2014. This decline is largely due to regulations that came into play due to complaints about wind turbines in countryside areas.

If we can increase the UK’s wind energy by 12GW, it would help to:

  • Create over 27,000 ‘green industry’ jobs across the supply chain, operation, and development.
  • Add £45 billion to the UK economy to help with post-pandemic recovery and help level-up different regions of the UK.
  • Reduce the cost of energy bills for all UK households by £25.
  • Help support the development of green hydrogen in a cost-effective manner.
  • Remove 6 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year, the equivalent of removing 1 million cars from our roads.

In the last two years, public opinion has turned to support onshore wind farms. People are now 15 times more likely to be in support of wind farms than to oppose them. The government’s earlier policy decision from 2015 was recently overturned, leading to a sharp focus on creating new onshore wind farms in order to stay on track to achieving the 2050 goal of net zero.

If you’re a landowner with extensive agricultural land in an area with a low-density population, you’re an ideal candidate to lease your land to a developer to convert into a wind farm. Leasing your land can create a passive income stream and allow you to benefit from more affordable energy bills. Without private wind farm projects, we won’t be able to meet the 2030 goal of 30GW capacity to stay on track to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050 to meet our Paris Climate Agreement commitment.