England could be expanding its onshore renewable energy potential and cutting emissions with just 3 per cent of its land. 

New analysis from environmental charity Friends of the Earth has identified major opportunities for renewable energy production in the UK. The report highlights 2,198 km2 of land in England suitable for onshore wind, and 2,950 km2 for solar farms, equating to just 2.9 per cent of England’s total land. Overall, this land has the theoretical potential to generate 95,542 GWh of onshore wind energy and 130,421 GWh of solar energy each year, equating to more than 13 times the current onshore wind and solar capacity in England.  

The drive for renewables  

Research from the National Grid has suggested that to cut the UK’s carbon emissions by 68 per cent by 2030, as per the government target, the UK will need to at least double current renewable energy capacity. This equates to more than 10 GW of new renewable energy capacity each year. Over the last decade, the average increase in new renewable energy capacity has sat at just 4 GW annually.  
Expanding renewables is good news for households since wind and solar farms are by far the cheapest forms of energy production, costing almost three times less to produce than electricity from gas-fired power stations. This has been a significant factor leading to 47 per cent of the UK’s energy mixing coming from renewable sources last year.  

Where is the land?  

The analysis only takes into account suitable land, excluding national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, high-grade architectural land, and heritage sites. 
As part of their analysis, Friends of the Earth mapped all the potential areas across England well-suited to onshore renewables. One of the biggest opportunity areas identified was North Yorkshire, with potential for 22,878 GWh of energy generation where current energy consumption is just 19,322 GWh.  
Close behind is the East Riding of Yorkshire region, with potential for 14,717 GWh of energy generation, and Northumberland with potential for 13,077 GWh of energy generation with current consumption at just 8,036 GWh. 
Unsurprisingly, the midlands is the sparsest region of opportunity for onshore renewable energy, and the majority of hotspots sit at the very North and very South of England.  

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