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Data investigation of installed and output power densities of onshore and offshore wind turbines worldwide

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Differing estimates have emerged about how much land or water area is used by existing wind farms and how much power can be obtained from that area. Whereas, no single unique method exists to define wind farm spacing area, the spacing area (thus installed and output power densities) of a wind farm can be determined in a way to meet specific logical criteria, This study proposes a new, intuitive, data based, automatized method of estimating spacing areas occupied by existing onshore and offshore wind farms worldwide. The method eliminates the erroneous counting of space outside of wind farm boundaries, space between clusters of turbines, and overlapping space that results when assuming a large fixed area around each turbine. At least one of three types of extra space has incorrectly been included in all calculations of wind farm areas to date. Unlike most previous methods, this method also ensures that the addition of a wind turbine to a farm increases the overall required spacing area of the farm. The study then uses data from over 1600 operating wind turbines in 16 onshore and 7 offshore wind farms in 13 countries across 5 continents during the period 2016–2018 to quantify installed and output power densities of these farms. Finally, it compares results with estimates from other studies. Results indicate that the mean (range) installed and output power densities of onshore wind farms in Europe are 19.8 (6.2–46.9) MW/km2 and 6.64 (2.3–8.2) W/m2, respectively; of onshore wind farms outside of Europe are similarly 20.5 (16.5–48) MW/km2 and 6.84 (4.81–11.2) W/m2, respectively; and of offshore wind farms in Europe are 7.2 (3.3–20.2) MW/km2 and 2.94 (1.15–6.32) W/m2, respectively. The mean capacity factors in each case are thus 33.5%, 33.4%, and 40.8%, respectively. These results indicate substantially higher installed and output power densities than previously reported, based simply on different definitions of land area, with no impact on capacity factor. Thus, existing wind turbines may extract more wind power over less land or water than previously thought.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnergy for Sustainable Development
Pages (from-to)40-51
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

    Research areas

  • Array losses, Installed power density, Output power density, Wind farm spacing areas, Wind power

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