Europe’s untapped onshore wind could power entire world

Europe could power the entire world up until 2050 if it installed onshore wind farms on all its suitable sites, a new study from the University of Sussex has revealed.

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The researchers estimate that Europe has the capacity to generate more than 100 times the amount of energy it currently produces through onshore wind farms.

Over 11 million turbines could theoretically be installed across almost five million square kilometres of suitable terrain, with Turkey, Russia and Norway having the most potential wind power.

If Europe’s capacity for onshore wind were realised, the researchers estimate that 52.5TW of new power would come online, equivalent to 1MW 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,” said Benjamin Sovacool, professor of energy policy at the University of Sussex.

“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.”

The researchers identified around 46% of Europe’s territory that would be suitable for onshore wind farms using spatial analysis of geographical information system-based wind atlases.

They found three times more onshore wind potential than other studies by using data that allowed the team to factor in exclusionary factors such areas restricted due to military or political reasons.

This comes after Vivid Economics found that onshore wind is now the cheapest source of new power generation, and that further deployment in the UK could cut energy bills by 7% and support 31,000 jobs.

“Critics will no doubt argue that the naturally intermittent supply of wind makes onshore wind energy unsuitable to meet the global demand,” said Peter Enevoldsen, assistant professor at Aarhus University, which co-produced the latest study.

“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 utilising the different wind regions in Europe is the key to meet the demand for a 100% renewable and fully decarbonised energy system.”

 

Image credit: Shutterstock

Author: 

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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