Can Europe live on renewables?
Europe’s average population density is roughly half of Britain’s, so
there is more land area in which to put enormous renewable facilities.
The area of the European Union is roughly 9000 m2 per person. However,
many of the renewables have lower power density in Europe than in
Britain: most of Europe has less wind, less wave, and less tide. Some parts
do have more hydro (in Scandinavia and Central Europe); and some have
more solar. Let’s work out some rough numbers.
The heart of continental Europe has lower typical windspeeds than the
British Isles – in much of Italy, for example, windspeeds are below 4 m/s.
Let’s guess that one fifth of Europe has big enough wind-speeds for eco-
nomical wind-farms, having a power density of 2 W/m2, and then assume
that we give those regions the same treatment we gave Britain in Chapter
4, filling 10% of them with wind farms. The area of the European Union is
roughly 9000 m2 per person. So wind gives
|1||× 10% × 9000 m2 × 2 W/m2 = 360 W|
which is 9 kWh/d per person.
Hydroelectric production in Europe totals 590 TWh/y, or 67 GW; shared
between 500 million, that’s 3.2 kWh/d per person. This production is dom-
inated by Norway, France, Sweden, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland. If every
country doubled its hydroelectric facilities – which I think would be
difficult – then hydro would give 6.4 kWh/d per person.
Taking the whole Atlantic coastline (about 4000 km) and multiplying by
an assumed average production rate of 10 kW/m, we get 2 kWh/d per
person. The Baltic and Mediterranean coastlines have no wave resource
worth talking of.
Doubling the estimated total resource around the British Isles (11 kWh/d
per person, from Chapter 14) to allow for French, Irish and Norwegian
tidal resources, then sharing between a population of 500 million, we get