Europe onshore windfarms “can power rest of world for 30 years”
By Berny Torre
EUROPE can produce enough energy from onshore wind farms to power the whole
world for the next 30 years, according to a study.
British and Danish researchers found the Continent could produce more than
100 times the energy it currently does from the farms.
Analysis by scientists at Sussex University and Aarhus University in
Denmark identified three times as many areas suitable for turbines than
previous studies.
They said more than 11 million additional wind turbines could be installed
over 1.2 million acres (4.9 square kilometres) of suitable terrain.
This would generate 497 exajoule (EJ) of power – 67EJ more than the
expected energy demand expected by 2050.
Study co-author Professor Benjamin Sovacool, of Sussex University, said:
“Obviously, we are not saying we should install turbines in all the
identified sites.
“But the study does show the huge wind power potential right across Europe
that needs to be harnessed if we are to avert a climate catastrophe.
“Our study suggests 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.
“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.”
The paper, which has been published in Energy Policy, comes after parts of
southern Britain suffered a major blackout that caused travel chaos and
affected nearly one million homes last week.
It happened after near simultaneous outages at a gas-fired power plant and
an offshore wind farm caused the frequency to drop below National Grid’s
safety limits.
National Grid’s initial report into the causes of Britain’s biggest
blackout in more than a decade is expected to blame a string of avoidable
faults at electricity generators and networks.
The British and Danish study claimed harnessing all of Europe’s untapped
potential for onshore wind farms would produce 52.5 terawatt (TW) of power,
equivalent to 1 megawatt (MW) per 16 European citizen.
The findings were based on analysis of Geographical Information System’s
wind atlases.
The research team used more detailed maps to identify more than three times
the wind power potential in Europe than in previous studies.
Breaking down the data to sub-national levels also allowed researchers to
factor in more areas that weren’t suitable. These included areas with
houses, roads, restricted areas due to military or political reasons, as
well as terrains not suitable for wind power generation.
Turkey, Russia, and Norway have the greatest potential for future wind
power density, according to the study.
Large parts of Western Europe were also considered ripe for further onshore
farms because of favourable wind speeds and flat areas.
Peter Enevoldsen, assistant professor in the Centre For Energy Technologies
at Aarhus University, said: “Critics will no doubt argue 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 utilising the different wind regions in Europe is the
key to meet the demand for a 100 percent renewable and fully decarbonised
energy system.”
Mark Jacobson, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford
University, America, said the study would allow better planning across Europe.
He said: “One of the most important findings of this study – aside from the
fact it concludes 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, so easing
the way for commitments by these countries to move entirely to clean,
renewable energy for all purposes.”
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