The UK can meet all of its wind power needs from new offshore developments, Claire Perry has claimed.
The energy minister issued her most emphatic defence of the government’s block on new onshore windfarms in England when giving evidence to the House of Commons science and technology committee yesterday (23 April).
Perry has previously defended the government’s stance on the grounds that it is implementing a commitment in the 2017 Conservative party manifesto.
But she told the committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the government’s Clean Growth Strategy, that offshore wind offers much greater benefits than onshore developments.
Perry said: “I have realised we could generate all the wind power we need offshore with concomitant industrial benefits n a way we could never imagine.”
Offshore windfarms currently being developed can generate much more power than their smaller land based counterparts, she said: “If you want to do really serious large scale wind generation you can build wind farms of 200 wind turbines taller than the Gherkin out in the North Sea.”
The minister also said that ex-industrial coastal areas offered easier opportunities for developing hydrogen plants, which can use surplus electricity generated when wind speeds are particularly strong to manufacture the low carbon gas.
She said that planning objections both to new wind farms and this kind of associated industrial development would be much greater in many inland areas
And greater investment in offshore ring mains would make delivering offshore wind farms more cost effective, Perry said.
The minister also told the committee that “simple” regulatory changes, which allow a greater proportion of hydrogen to be blended into the gas supply, would be a “really easy” way of beginning its decarbonisation.
She noted that a much higher proportion is possible, given that until the 1950s up to 40 per cent of town gas then in widespread use was hydrogen.
Perry expressed confidence that regulatory change will also help to kickstart innovation in low carbon technologies like heat pumps, which are not currently deployed at scale, potentially reducing costs.