Thursday, October 18, 2012

What is Europe's wind energy potential?

Wind energy sector is the second fastest renewable energy sector in the world, trailing only solar. EU is one of the largest wind energy markets in the world, and leads the globe in offshore wind energy development. One of the reasons why wind energy potential is developing this fast in Europe is abundant wind energy resources throughout the Europe.

According to European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) wind energy potential in Europe is so big that wind energy could provide half of the European Union's electricity requirements in 2050.

Unlike United States and China, EU is more focused on developing offshore wind energy projects. This is the area where United Kingdom leads the way as global offshore wind energy leader. If you think about the geography and the density of population then it is really no surprise that EU is focusing on offshore wind energy development as entire Europe is densely populated with not that much locations that would support large wind farms on land.

Offshore wind energy projects are still about three times more expensive than wind projects on land but many energy analysts expect rapid decrease in costs as offshore power technologies are yet to mature and need to face larger deployment challenges.

The costs are not the only worry related with wind energy, there is also the intermittency of wind energy. This means that countries that develop wind energy projects need to prepared for significant fluctuations in electricity output and should try to combine wind farms with other energy sources in order to ensure reliable delivery 24-7.

The EU wind energy development from 1995-2011. By EWEA.

In September 2012 EWEA reported that the European Union has passed the milestone of 100 gigawatt (GW) of installed wind power capacity, which is enough to generate electricity for 57 million households. The future outlook for wind energy in Europe looks very bright and EU will likely keep momentum of current wind energy growth, particularly regarding new offshore wind energy projects. Wind energy sector could play major role in clean energy race and EU is well aware of that.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently stated that between 2011 and 2017, wind power should grow on average by 100 TWh per year on global level.