Wind Could Power Europe Many Times Over

A new report from the European Environment Agency has concluded that wind power’s potential in 2020 is as much as three times greater than Europe’s expected electricity demand, rising to a factor of up to seven times demand by 2030.

This study confirms that wind energy can play a major role in achieving the European renewable energy targets and that the extent of wind energy resources in Europe is very considerable. The report, ‘Europe’s onshore and offshore wind energy potential,’ highlights that the wind energy potential is huge, equivalent to almost 20 times energy demand in 2020. Onshore wind energy potential is concentrated in agricultural and industrial areas of north-western Europe. Likewise, the largest offshore potential can be found in low depth areas in the North Sea, the Baltic Seas and the Atlantic Ocean, with some local opportunities in areas of the Mediterranean and Black Seas.

The deep offshore potential is even larger but costs mean that it is unlikely to contribute in any significant way to the energy mix within the time horizon of the study. Using only 4 % of the offshore area within 10 km from the coast and accounting for the restrictions imposed by shipping lane, gas and oil platforms, military areas, reduces the potential by more than 90 % to 2800 TWh in 2020 and 3500 TWh in 2030.

When production costs are compared to baseline average electricity generation costs, the onshore potential for wind decreases to 9600 TWh in 2020, whereas offshore wind potential decreases to 2600 TWh. Despite being a small proportion of the total technical potential, the economically competitive wind energy potential still amounts to more than three times projected demand in 2020.

However, high penetration levels of wind power will require major changes to the grid system at higher penetration levels, with additional extensions or upgrades both for  the transmission and the distribution grid  possibly required to avoid congestion.

The conclusions were welcomed by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), with CEO Christian Kjaer observing: “The EEA clearly recognizes that wind power will be key to Europe’s energy future. Now that oil prices are again on the rise, the EEA report sends a reminder to Europe’s policy makers that wind power is a clean and proven energy technology and Europe is the world leader.”

 The EEA report can be found here

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