Cumbria could enjoy a significant economic uplift from the growth of solar, geothermal, hydro and biomass energy provision, according to former Government energy adviser and environmental scientist Sir Martin Holdgate.
The findings are part of a report written by Holdgate and commissioned by Cumbria Vision's Renewable Energy Panel, which he chairs. Cumbria Vision claims it is the first study in Britain to identify the economic opportunities arising from renewable energy development at a county level.
It says Cumbria is poised to meet one third of its total energy needs from renewable sources by 2020, and double that by 2050. By 2050 the county could become a significant exporter of renewable energy with 5.5gigawatts of installed capacity, and meet the energy needs of over 300,000 people through a mix of wind, hydro, tidal, solar, geothermal and biomass.
Holdgate claimed these figures can be achieved without damaging Cumbria's internationally-prized landscape, which is the major draw for the 16 million visitors who flock to the county each year.
Holdgate said: "It is widely accepted Britain must produce more renewable energy as part of our effort to tackle climate change and increase energy security. Cumbria has a major contribution to make to this national effort, and this study demonstrates just how much we could do without damaging our beautiful landscape and hurting our tourist industry.
"Many members of the Renewables Panel have contributed to the study and the findings have surprised most of us. For example, while offshore wind power could generate enough to meet over half the county's energy needs by 2050 alone, it will not provide many jobs unless a turbine manufacturing industry is established here. On the other hand, smaller hydro, geothermal, biomass and solar developments may generate a modest amount of energy but could support thousands of jobs, especially as homes begin to supply their own heat and power from heat pumps, solar panels and other built in devices. There is also scope for considerable 'greening' of existing skills as fossil fuel industries switch to new sources, along with scope for entirely new jobs as a result of further research and development."