Europe can Produce 100 Times More Energy through Onshore Windfarms

A new analysis by the University of Sussex and Aarhus University has shown that Europe has the potential to generate over 100 times the amount of energy it currently generates via onshore windfarms.

Onshore wind farm. (Image credit: Envision Energy)

In an analysis of all appropriate locations for onshore wind farms, the new research shows that Europe has the capacity to provide adequate energy for the entire world until 2050.

The research shows that if all of Europe’s potential for onshore wind farms was achieved, the installed nameplate capacity would be 52.5 TW—equivalent to 1 MW for every 16 European citizens.

The study is not a blueprint for development but a guide for policymakers indicating the potential of how much more can be done and where the prime opportunities exist. Our study suggests that the horizon is bright for the onshore wind sector and that European aspirations for a 100% renewable energy grid are within our collective grasp technologically.

Benjamin Sovacool, Study Co-Author and Professor of Energy Policy, University of Sussex

Sovacool added, “Obviously, we are not saying that we should install turbines in all the identified sites but the study does show the huge wind power potential right across Europe which needs to be harnessed if we’re to avert a climate catastrophe.”

With the spatial analysis of Geographical Information System (GIS)-based wind atlases, the group of scientists was able to identify about 46% of Europe’s territory that would be appropriate for siting of onshore wind farms.

The advanced GIS data at sub-national levels offered a far more comprehensive understanding and enabled the group to factor in a far greater range of exclusionary factors such as roads, houses, and restricted areas because of military or political reasons as well as terrains that are not appropriate for wind power generation.

The more comprehensive detail in this method enabled the research group to identify over thrice the onshore wind capacity in Europe than prior studies.

Critics will no doubt argue that the naturally intermittent supply of wind makes onshore wind energy unsuitable to meet the global demand.

Peter Enevoldsen, Assistant Professor, Center for Energy Technologies, Aarhus University

Enevoldsen continued, “But even without accounting for developments in wind turbine technology in the upcoming decades, onshore wind power is the cheapest mature source of renewable energy, and utilizing the different wind regions in Europe is the key to meet the demand for a 100% renewable and fully decarbonized energy system.”

The research predicts that over 11 million additional wind turbines could be theoretically set up across nearly 5 million square kilometers of suitable terrain, producing 497 EJ of power, which would sufficiently meet the estimated global energy requirement in 2050 of 430 EJ.

The authors discovered Turkey, Russia, and Norway as having the greatest capacity for future wind-power density, although a huge part of Western Europe was also considered ready for further onshore farms due to favorable wind speeds and flat regions.

One of the most important findings of this study, aside from the fact that it concludes that the European onshore wind potential is larger than previously estimated, is that it facilitates the ability of countries to plan their onshore wind resource development more efficiently, thereby easing the way for commitments by these countries to move entirely to clean, renewable energy for all purposes.

Mark Jacobson, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University


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