Wind farms require 700 times more land to produce the same amount energy as fracking sites, according to the former chief scientific advisor to the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
Professor David Mackay has published figures showing that shale gas extraction is far more efficient and less intrusive than solar and wind energy.
He rated each technology according to six criteria, including height, the area from which the facility can be seen, land area occupied by hardware and access roads and energy produced over 25 years.
Shale pads have by far the smallest impact on the surrounding area, requiring less land than the alternatives, with equipment covering the smallest area. Wind farms, by contrast, require lots of empty land between turbines which could be used for other purposes.
Wind turbines are also the tallest of the alternatives, and can be seen from a land area between 20 to 66 square miles (52 to 170 sq km). Shale gas, by contrast has a tiny visual impact – 190 acres (77 hectares) – and the drilling rig may only be in place for the first few years.
Although solar panels are not tall, they have to cover up to 450 times as much land as shale gas.
Professor Mackay said that the analysis showed that “perhaps unsurprisingly, there is no silver bullet – no energy source with all-round small environmental impact.”
Mackay’s intervention comes a about 100 anti-fracking protesters occupied a field near Blackpool, North West England, in protest at a drilling site for energy firm Cuadrilla.
A spokesman for Cuadrilla told the Telegraph: “This comparison by David MacKay clearly demonstrates that, contrary to what some people may assume, exploration for and production of shale gas would actually have less far less impact on the countryside than wind or solar energy.
“To supply an equivalent amount of energy a shale gas site would occupy just a small fraction of the land required for either wind or solar sites, would have less visual intrusion and significantly less transport impact, given that in the UK we do not anticipate having to truck water to our proposed sites.”
Ken Cronin of UK Onshore Operators Group, which represents shale firms, added: “David MacKay’s review is a useful addition to the debate. We are going to need all these energy sources to be part of a balanced energy mix.
“We mustn’t ignore the fact that over 80 per cent of homes and businesses are heated by gas. As an industry we are committed to informing and consulting fully with the communities in which we operate.”