Norfolk could be the solution to the UK’s renewable energy crisis

PUBLISHED: 16:04 25 January 2019 | UPDATED: 14:49 04 November 2019

Orsted’s Race Bank Offshore Wind Farm, located off the north Norfolk coast. Picture: Alasdair Smith/Courtesy of Orsted

Orsted’s Race Bank Offshore Wind Farm, located off the north Norfolk coast. Picture: Alasdair Smith/Courtesy of Orsted

Alasdair Smith

The energy industry is once again alight with conversation after a new study has delved into the potential of storing power from wind farms in undersea rock beds.

The "nirvana" of the sector, renewable energy storage, has taken another step after it was suggested that wind turbines could be powered all-year around - driven by energy released from gas trapped in sandstone.

Simon Gray is the chief executive of the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) and said: "Energy storage is the nirvana of the sector, because currently when we have the most demand for electricity is when it's not windy enough for turbines or sunny enough for solar.

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"Sustaining renewable energy would mean we use less nuclear or gas-generated electricity, and would also be a relief post-Brexit because we would import less liqerifed natural gas (LNG), which we get from Europe," Mr Gray said.

The thesis of storing energy in porous sandstone was explored in science journal Nature Energy, and identified Norfolk's coast as a potential site.

"What I would question is why we would look to dig huge new rock wells when we already have empty gas wells which we no longer have use for," said Mr Gray.

He explained: "When subsea gas wells run out, we seal them off. We could fill these with gas or compressed air, and then release that using infrastructures already in place from when the sites were in use.

"We have similar salt bed sites, which would significantly reduce costs - which is currently the factor holding this back."

Norfolk already hosts 50% of the UK's wind turbine network, and can produce up to 50% of the UK's energy supply through the Bacton gas terminal.

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"I'm not sure if this method will be the silver bullet, and done the right way could potentially see it installed without ripping up half the county. Norfolk is ideally placed and is already the UK's energy hub," said Mr Gray.

Richard Price is the councillor for north Norfolk's Waxham ward, which was under the lens last year as energy giant Vatenfall eyed land in his ward for energy infrastructure.

"Providing it does not cause any disruption, I can only see more renewable energy produced in north Norfolk as a good thing," he said.

"Tourism is the second largest employer here and it's seasonal and low-paid work. This could create jobs for them," he added.

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