If Europe's untapped infrastructure capacity for wind energy was to be used, it could produce up to 100 more times more energy from onshore wind farms than it currently does. This is according to a new study by the University of Sussex in the UK and Aarhus University in Denmark.
Using spatial analysis of Geographical Information Systems (GIS)-based atlases, the study observed all of Europe's suitable land-based wind farm sites and concluded that, in theory, wind power could provide Europe with the potential to supply the entire planet with energy in line with increased use up until 2050.
What Were the Findings?
In summary, using GIS, the team discovered that almost 46% of Europe could be used for onshore wind energy generation. That is excluding urbanised areas and other areas that would be unsuitable for wind farm development, e.g. where there are roads or other installations.
The study's co-author, Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Sussex, Benjamin Sovacool, 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."
He went on to add, "Our study suggests that the horizon is bright for the onshore wind sector and that European aspirations for a 100 per cent renewable energy grid are within our collective grasp technologically."
How Much Wind Energy Can Be Generated?
In short, a lot. That is, if Europe's landmass is used to its full potential.
For Europe to create just under 500 exajoules of power, over 11 million wind turbines across five million km2 would need to be installed. Given that global estimated energy demand by 2050 is currently sitting around the 430 exajoules mark, that is more than enough to power the world.
A map showing density potential for onshore wind turbines in Europe. Image courtesy of the University of Sussex.
As per the study and as illustrated by the above map, it is Norway, Russia, and Turkey that have the most potential for wind energy farming via onshore wind turbines. This is because these countries have plenty of wind in tandem with sparse, flat sections of land.
Other ideal locations include much of Western Europe, including the UK, Portugal, and Spain.
Assistant Professor at Aarhus University's Centre for Energy Technologies, Peter Enevoldsen, said, "…in the upcoming decades, onshore wind power [is/will be] the cheapest mature source of renewable energy, and utilising the different wind regions in Europe is the key to meet the demand for a 100 per cent renewable and fully decarbonised energy system."
Published in September 2019's volume of Energy Policy, the study paints a big picture for the role Europe will play in satisfying the world's future energy demands.