By Ed King
Hull has the potential to be a clean-tech version of Silicon Valley, according to the former UK Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott.
In an interview with RTCC, he outlined his dreams for the area, and said critics of wind farms in Yorkshire needed to be ‘taken on’.
Friday’s announcement that an £130 million wood-burning power station will be built at the city’s Queen Elizabeth Dock takes renewable energy investment in the area to near £1 billion.
The East Yorkshire city is now at the epicentre of a development that will see the region become a hub for offshore wind, biomass and marine technology.
Siemens are in advanced stages of planning ‘Green Port Hull’, a development that will see them invest £210 million in a wind turbine factory.
Planners are currently engaged in a consultation process with local stakeholders – when completed, the scheme is expected to create more than 700 jobs.
Speaking to RTCC, Lord Prescott, who was a strong advocate of renewable energy while in government, said the area was primed to lead a new ‘industrial revolution’.
“This is an estuary of low carbon energy – through renewables – I don’t think there’s another like it in the country,” he said.
“East Yorkshire is becoming a wind farm – and it is – there’s a stack of them going up…sea and land.
“What we have is an estuary which is the biggest importer of oil, a big importer of coal, the wind, water, renewables – the Humber is almost going to take the place of the power lines we had across Yorkshire.”
The region has a track record of pioneering new technology. In 1989 Hull became the first city in the UK to transfer to a digital telecommunications network.
West Yorkshire is already home to the UK’s first carbon-capture pilot project at Ferrybridge coal-fired power station, launched by Chris Huhne in November 2011.
Meanwhile Drax coal-fired power station, Britain’s largest single source of carbon emissions, is now the country’s largest consumer of biomass fuel.
The benefits are clear in terms of job creation and investment – but not everyone is happy with the path the region is taking.
Last year the Yorkshire Post reported that the region’s existing 108 onshore turbines could rise to nearly 250, enough to power 300,000 homes.
These proposals have met with stiff resistance from groups such as stopwoodlanewindfarm who claim wind farms will lead to the ‘industrialisation of the countryside’.
Opponents cite their impact on the landscape, noise and effect on local bird populations.
Prescott unsurprisingly disagrees, arguing that this ‘new industrial revolution’ requires a change in mentality and an appreciation of where our energy comes from.
“You’ve got to take them [critics] on. I toured east Yorkshire. There are quite a few church steeples, pylons, water towers – now they have been accepted as picturesque,” he said.
“I’m now trying to say to people in Yorkshire – you can use your telephones because of a mast – when you use a television, the power is supplied by a pylon.
“Now you didn’t object to them because they’re the necessary infrastructure for you to enjoy a good quality of life. You were happy when resources were found to be in parts of Yorkshire which were inland – iron, ore – we put the power stations near them.
“But now when it’s a new energy and a new industrialisation coming about to the heart of it, you have to have it where there is wind, and it’s out there in the North Sea and on the land.”
RTCC VIDEO: Lord Prescott outlines his key goals for the international climate negotiations in Durban.