Europe Has Untapped Onshore Wind Power to Meet Entire World's Needs until 2050

A new study finds that the European continent has what it takes to meet the entire world's energy demands.
Fabienne Lang

You may have driven past silent white wind turbines, looming above you, either oblivious to them or perhaps admiring their aesthetics. The silent power-harnessing machines could be the answer to our global energy demands. 

A new study from the University of Sussex and Aarhus University has discovered that the European continent has enough onshore wind power to meet all of the world's energy demands up until 2050. 

The team discovered this by using spatial analysis of Geographical Information System (GIS)-based atlases. The results are published in Energy Policy.


What did the team discover?

By using GIS, the researchers were able to include a number of exclusionary factors, such as houses, military bases, and roads, which typically wouldn't be built on. 

What the team then found is that 46% of Europe could be used for onshore wind turbines. 

Co-author of the study and 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."

"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."

Sovacool continued, "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."

Europe Has Untapped Onshore Wind Power to Meet Entire World's Needs until 2050
This map shows onshore density potential in megawatts per square kilometre for European countries. Source: University of Sussex

It is impressive to know just how much power the European continent can harness, and what options are available for renewable energy. 

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How many turbines would be installed to harness all this energy?

Over 11 million wind turbines across five million square kilometers of landmass would have to be installed in order for the continent to create 497 exajoules (EJ) of power.

The global energy demand will be approximately 430 EJ by 2050.

As per the study, Norway, Turkey, and Russia are the three nations where most energy could be harnessed by onshore wind turbines. Although large parts of Western Europe also fall under this category. The ideal locations have long flat sections of land and plenty of wind. 

Peter Enevoldsen, assistant professor at Aarhus University’s Centre for Energy Technologies, said "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 per cent renewable and fully decarbonised energy system."

It seems like Europe could certainly play a big part in the world's future energy requirements. 

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