Europe Has the Untapped Onshore Capacity to Meet Global Energy Demand

Money Time |

The University of Sussex and Aarhus University have uncovered a surprising resource for energy in the analysis they performed on suitable sites for onshore wind farms in Europe. 

The research team was able to identify around 46% of Europe’s territory that would be suitable for these wind farms through the spatial analysis of Geographical Information System (GIS)-based wind atlases. 

The data gave huge amounts of insight and information on the situation, allowing the research team to identify over three times the onshore wind potential in Europe than in previous studies.

Europe Could Supply the Whole World

What they discovered was that Europe has the potential to supply enough energy for the whole world until 2050 – over 100 times the amount of energy it currently produces through onshore windfarms. 

Wind farm locations across Europe

That means that if all of Europe’s capacity for onshore wind farms was realized, the installed nameplate capacity would be 52.5 TW – 1 MW for every 16 European citizens.

Co-author Benjamin Sovacool, Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Sussex, said: "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.

"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."

Comprehensive Data Went Into the Research

From the comprehensive data the research team gathered through the spatial analysis, they were able to factor in things like houses, roads, restricted areas due to military or political reasons, and terrains not suitable for wind power generation.

Peter Enevoldsen, assistant professor in the Center for Energy Technologies at Aarhus University, said: "Critics will no doubt argue that the naturally intermittent supply of wind makes onshore wind energy unsuitable to meet the global demand.

"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."

Wind installations across Europe have increased by over 10% on last year, but output has increased by over 14%, source: 

Some of the most ideal countries the authors of the study identified for wind power density were Turkey, Russia, and Norway; large portions of Western Europe that are flat with favorable wind speeds could be utilized as well, but overall, the study estimates that more than 11 million additional wind turbines could be theoretically installed over nearly 5 million square kilometers of suitable ground, producing 497 EJ of power which would be more than enough for the global energy demand in 2050 of 430 EJ.

Mark Jacobson, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, said:

"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."