Europe’s wind power industry really stands out in the world, and the installed capacity has either reached the second or the top. In 2018 alone, Europe has invested 27 billion euros to develop new wind farms. The installed capacity is expected to increase by 16.7GW. The recent research in the United Kingdom and Denmark pointed out that the European onshore wind power installed capacity can actually be 100 times more than it is now. The potential capacity may reach up to 52.5 terawatts. It is enough to deliver 100% of the world’s electricity in 2050.
According to a study by the University of Sussex and the University of Aarhus in Energy Policy, they first studied each country’s wind power developing condition and related regulations, and with GIS’ spatial analysis, military and residential houses, roads, restricted areas, and places where wind power is not suitable for development were removed. It is estimated that about 46% of the land in Europe can be fitted with wind turbines, with more than three times the potential for development as previously thought.
The team believes that currently the potential development area of onshore wind power is as high as 4.895 million square kilometers, with more than 11 million wind turbines installed under ideal conditions and a capacity of up to 52.5 terawatts. Turkey, Russia and Norway have the greatest potential, with the highest wind power density. Western Europe is also a good wind farm location because of flat terrain and strong wind speeds.
Mark Jacobson, the professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, said that the study has confirmed not just the greater-than-expected potential of onshore wind power in Europe, but also the different ways in which the efficient planning of wind farms can accelerate renewable energy development in the region.
However, the study did not take political factors and high-voltage grid installation into account. Before promoting the cross-border, cross-regional super grid, we have to consider whether it is a stable, trustworthy partner. In addition, high-voltage grid installation is also expensive. The economy may be a problem.
The team said that the study was not a blueprint for the future, but a feasibility study. Benjamin Sovacool, the professor of energy policy at the University of Sussex, said that it was not about building turbines in all locations. It was just about showing the best prospects for Europe’s onshore wind industry. The onshore wind power will be needed if we are planning to move towards 100% renewable energy.
The intermittent nature of onshore wind power is also destined to keep us from relying entirely on wind power, just like the 2018 heat wave in June. The “wind drought” has brought wind power capacity in the UK closer to zero for nine days. The wind power was poor throughout the summer, with capacity down 10.9% from 12.9% last year, despite a 10% increase in installed capacity.
Basically, different energy sources will have different challenges; for example, solar energy needs light, wind power requires wind, and coal generators can’t be restarted quickly. There will be risks if people are relying on only one energy source, so power system diversification and energy storage system are the keys for future development.
(Source: Tech News; Image：allanjder via Flickr CC BY 2.0）