Wind power potentials in Europe, 2009


Observations for policy

To achieve the EU climate policy and sustainable growth objectives more energy needs to come from renewable resources, including wind power. Potentials for on-shore wind power generation are rather unevenly distributed across Europe. Many regions with the highest potentials to tap energy from wind are located in Northern Europe and some of them are perceived as peripheral located regions. Transmission to the main energy consumption area is therefore one of the connections that needs to be made, and transmission costs need to be considered in order to fully realise the wind power potential of peripheral regions.

One significant problem is the variability of wind which means that wind-generated energy is best seen as part of an overall energy portfolio where connected networks can shift between sources in response to supply and demand.

For regions and cities at risk of energy poverty due to climate change the potential of generating energy from renewable resources, as wind power or solar energy, is seen as an important factor. In this respect, some renewable energies such as solar-thermal, small wind, or photovoltaic plants have the capacity to deliver energy for direct consumption without being fed into the general electricity grid.

Policy context

An increasing share of renewable energy from some 10% in 2008 to 20% in 2020 forms a key energy and climate change objective of the European Council. This is also part of the sustainable growth objective advocated in the Europe 2020 Strategy. At the same time energy prices have recently been rising progressively and the dependency on fossil fuels has no precedents in history. In order to make an improvement in energy efficiency and to reach the above-mentioned objective, energy supply and demand will have to turn towards more renewable energy sources in the future. However, there are also obstacles to overcome when using renewable energy sources, as for example potential conflicts with nature protection designations.

Map interpretation

Some regions in Europe are endowed with natural qualities regarding the environment that could well alow them to generate renewable energies. As far as wind is concerned, some regions are better placed than others.

The map highlights the regions with the greatest on-shore wind power potentials that benefit from high wind speeds and large area size. The size of regions is recognised as available (open) space is often a problem for locating wind parks and hence influencing the potential for wind power. Regions in Europe which have the highest potential for producing electricity from on-shore wind power are thus identified. These are in Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as well as in Northern Norway and Scotland. However, most of these areas are very distant from major urban markets where the demand for electricity is concentrated. To fully realize the potential of the peripheral regions among other transmission costs would have to be overcome.

Concepts and methods

The values on the wind power potential are primarily based on wind speed data, but are also taking into account environmental and other restraints. To calculate ‘constrained potential’, Natura 2000 and other protected areas are excluded from the calculations of wind energy potential. Although it is not illegal to build wind farms on Natura 2000 sites, they were considered to provide a useful proxy for the restrictions implied by biodiversity protection.

The wind power potential is measured in meters/second (m/s), considering also the area size of the regions (km2). The original data on wind intensity in the regions was prepared in GIS format was converted to NUTS 2 level.