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Europe could power the world with onshore wind

Putting turbines on all suitable terrain in Europe could generate enough power to satiate the whole world up until 2050.
August 22, 2019

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There is an enormous amount of untapped wind energy on Europe’s land area. And if it could be harnessed, it could provide wind power to meet the whole world’s energy needs until 2050, a new study in the journal Energy Policy shows.

Wind farms are blossoming in Europe as part of the transition to a low-carbon energy system. Europe leads the world in wind energy production with about 189 GW of installed capacity, providing 14 percent of the EU’s electricity.

But much more is possible. An international team of researchers led by Peter Enevoldsen at Aarhus University in Denmark wanted to do a bold analysis of how much more wind energy it is possible to squeeze out of Europe’s inland skies. They used Geographical Information System (GIS) wind atlases to map out the territories in European countries that could hold onshore wind farms.

They found that 54 percent of Europe’s landmass was off-limits because of infrastructure, restricted areas, and land that is unsuitable for wind power generation.

But the other 46 percent of European landmass, or over 5 million square kilometers, was suitable for wind farms. The researchers estimated that over 11 million additional wind turbines could, in theory, be installed on that area. Along with the turbines already spinning, these additional farms would produce 497 exajoules of power, enough to meet the expected global energy demand of 430 EJ in 2050.

The maps showed that Turkey, Russia, and Norway have the largest potential for future wind farms. Large swaths of Western Europe were also ideal because of favorable wind speeds and flat areas.

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“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 and one of the paper’s authors.

Source: Peter Enevoldsen et al. How much wind power potential does europe have? Examining european wind power potential with an enhanced socio-technical atlas. Energy Policy, 2019.

Photo: Markus Distelrath at Pixabay

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