An increased rollout of onshore wind turbines across Europe could technically provide the continent with more than 10 times its existing electricity needs, according to a new paper.
To make their estimate, a team of German researchers took into account changing wind speeds, all the available land and, crucially, futuristic turbine designs that are already coming onto the market.
While they note that generating 100% of Europe’s power from wind would not actually be feasible due to social, economic and political constraints, the scientists say their estimate gives a “significantly higher” figure than most previous assessments of wind potential.
Their paper, published in the journalEnergy, also suggests that, as technology advances, the cost of the resulting electricity will be cheaper than previous studies have estimated.
Some nations, including the UK,have struggledwith political opposition to onshore wind. However, with the EU facing ambitious climate targets in the coming years, wind is expected to be thebiggest contributor到该地区的电源不到十年。
However, as demonstrated by the UK – where cuts to government subsidies and tighter planning rules haveeffectively blocked自2015年以来，陆上风的进步 - 政治，社会和经济因素对这项技术的未来增加了显着的不确定性。
各种各样的studieshave attempted to estimate the wind capacity of the entire continent, adding to the body of evidence concerning the technology’s feasibility. These studies take into account factors such as weather patterns and hypothetical locations for windfarms to gauge the maximum potential wind power has across the region.
这些研究往往估计欧元pean capacity of between around 8 and 12 terawatts (TW), which would result in a total annual generation of between16.and 21 petawatt hours (PWh）。鉴于欧洲的年发电 - 根据BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy– is just 3.6PWh, this already vastly exceeds the amount required on the continent.
However, in their new paper the authors explain that they think this is an underestimate when considering future wind generation potential in Europe.
The figure the researchers arrive at is 13.4TW of installable wind capacity across Europe, only marginally higher than previous estimates.
In their paper, the authors attribute this discrepancy partly to their methods of identifying eligible land for windfarm construction and estimating weather. Crucially, they also emphasise their focus on futuristic turbine designs of the type that are expected to become standard in the coming years.
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“The use of futuristic turbine designs has a major impact on the outcome of these generation potential investigations and, by extension, will drastically change the result of hypothetical energy system design efforts.”
Over the past decade, there has been asteady increase在汽轮机容量、中心高度和转子直径, and these trends are expected to continue. While other studies have used contemporary turbines as their baseline, Ryberg and his colleagues chose instead to use a futuristic turbine that they think will be widespread by 2050.
They say its features represent “conservative estimates” of future norms based on the historical rate of change and note that such a design aligns with a projectiondescribed as“likely” by the IEA. Furthermore, such turbines already exist in the form of theVestas V136, 4.2MWwind turbine, whichmade its debutearlier this year in Denmark’s first subsidy-free windfarm.
Andrew Canning from trade associationWindEuropetells Carbon Brief it is “highly likely” that “better, more efficient and more powerful turbines” will continue to emerge in the near future:
Canning notes the case ofEl Carbitoonshore windfarm in Spain, which saw its power capacity boosted from 22.8MW to 31MW after 90 first generation turbines were replaced with 15 new ones.
Location and cost
To undertake their analysis, the researchers first ruled out everywhere that was unsuitable for windfarm construction. This included excluding 800m zones around all settlements and 1.2km zones around the most densely populated areas. More exclusion zones were placed around a wide variety of locations, ranging from airports and power lines to protected bird habitats and campsites.
Even after this effort, the researchers were left with a total area of 1.3 million square kilometres – roughly a quarter of Europe’s entire land area – where windfarms could theoretically be built. This is within roughly the same range as past studies.
They then used an algorithm to identify the maximum number of installation sites for turbines and a simulation to determine the hourly generation at those sites over the course of a 37-year lifespan.
This is where the new projection diverges from previous studies. The combination of increased overall capacity and increased efficiency of the new turbines means it estimates a far higher generation potential. The authors note this significant uptick is not distributed evenly across Europe, with nations benefiting from strong winds, such as the UK, Denmark and Ireland, seeing the biggest potential gains.
Ryberg and his team also consider the cost of wind power under European renewable energy scenarios that have been outlined in the literature. They find that futuristic turbines were able to produce electricity at a cheaper rate than contemporary designs, in part due to their ability to withstand lulls in wind speed better and, therefore, operate with less backup storage. Even in areas where the most windfarms are constructed, they conclude that electricity costs from wind are unlikely to exceed €0.06 per kWh (5p), the study says.
The future of wind
Ryberg指出,他们的论文是基于一个假说etical situation. While they were careful to exclude unrealistic turbines built “on top of a school”, for example, that does not mean a quarter of Europe would ever realistically be covered in windfarms. He explains why he does not think Europe is heading towards en entirely wind-driven future:
“这种技术一代潜力的大部分都不会在经济上具有吸引力。此外，地理空间分布与所有能源需求区域不完全对应 - 例如，我们在瑞典找到了高的风力发电潜力，与德国，法国，意大利和英国相比具有相对低的能源需求。除了this, the ‘间歇性’ of wind is a well-known concept which could make an all-wind European energy system costly – due to energy storage and transmission requirements – and difficult to manage.”
However, this does not mean the paper lacks real-world implications. While politicians in placessuch as Polandand the UK have resisted onshore wind in recent years, Canning says polls show the European public to be “overwhelmingly” in favour of the technology.
Ryberg, D.S. et al. (2019) The future of European onshore wind energy potential: Detailed distribution and simulation of advanced turbine designs, Energy,https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360544219311818
Europe ‘could get 10 times’ its electricity needs from onshore wind, study says