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European Wind Energy Potential

The “raw technical potential” of wind power in Europe is enormous, if you keep in mind that in 2015 total EU electricity consumption was in the order of 3000 TWh. However in reality there are constraints, mostly of esthetical nature.

This study confirms that wind energy can play a major role in achieving the European renewable energy targets. As Table ES.1 makes apparent, the extent of wind energy resources in Europe is very considerable. Leaving aside some of the environmental, social and economic considerations, Europe’s raw wind energy potential is huge. Turbine technology projections suggest that it may be equivalent to almost 20 times energy demand in 2020.

Onshore, the environmental constraints considered appear to have limited impact on wind energy potential. When Natura 2000 and other designated areas are excluded, onshore technical potential decreased by just 13.7 % to 39000 TWh. However, social constraints, particularly concerns regarding the visual impact of wind farms, may further limit the onshore wind energy development.

Offshore, the environmental and social constraints applied have a larger impact on potential. 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, Natura 2000 areas etc. reduces the potential by more than 90 % (to 2800 TWh in 2020 and 3500 in 2030). When production costs are compared to the PRIMES baseline average electricity generation cost, 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 i.e. at higher penetration levels additional extensions or upgrades both for the transmission and the distribution grid might be required to avoid congestion…

European wind speed data. Best places: North Sea, Baltic, British Isles.

Offshore wind potential between 10-30 km from the coast

Energy density

[energy.eu] – Europe’s onshore and offshore wind energy potential (2009)

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