Europe has the resource to produce 100 times more energy from onshore wind farms than it currently does, if its untapped capacity were to be used, an analysis by the Universities of Sussex in the UK and Aarhus in Denmark has found.

The study, which looked at all suitable sites for wind farms on land, concludes that wind could theoretically give Europe the potential to supply enough energy for the whole world until 2050.

“The study is not a blueprint for development but a guide for policymakers indicating the potential of how much more can be done and where the prime opportunities exist,” said the study’s co-author Benjamin Sovacool, professor of energy policy at the University of Sussex.

“Obviously, we are not saying that we should install turbines in all the identified sites but the study does show the huge wind power potential right across Europe which needs to be harnessed if we’re to avert a climate catastrophe.”

If all of Europe’s capacity for onshore wind farms were to be developed, the installed nameplate capacity would amount to 52.5TW – or 1MW for every 16 European citizens, the study claims.

The researchers used a spatial analysis of geographical information system (GIS) based wind atlases to identify around 46% of Europe’s territory which would be suitable for siting onshore wind farms.

The advanced GIS data at sub-national levels provided a far more detailed insight and allowed the team to factor in a far greater range of exclusionary factors including houses, roads, restricted areas due to military or political reasons as well as terrains not suitable for wind power generation, the researchers explain.

Due to the greater detail in this approach, the research team says it was able to identify more than three times the onshore wind potential in Europe than previous studies.

The authors, however, identified Turkey, Russia and Norway as having the greatest potential for future wind power density, although they also considered large parts of Western Europe ripe for further onshore wind farms because of favourable wind speeds and flat areas.

The wind industry in Russia is still in its infancy, though, as the government is only slowly starting to bet on renewables in a country with near-abundant fossil energy resources. Norway already is in the midst of an onshore wind boom that can only be sustained if a large volume of new electricity from wind will be exported as the country has only five million inhabitants.