Energy potential maps: from theoretical to sustainable potential

Posted by on Feb 26, 2014 in Knowledge transfer | No Comments
Sud Tirol landscape. Photo by Sara Biscaini.

Sud Tirol landscape. Photo by Sara Biscaini.

Which is the renewable energy potential in the alpine region? should give an answer to this question. For this reason, EURAC is developing the energy potential maps for the alpine region.

What is it the energy potential? Is it possible to exploit all the energy available? The answer is no. For example, the theoretical energy potential for hydro-power depends on the river discharge and the gross head. The technical potential is constrained by the plant efficiency, the accessibility of the site, etc. Finally, the exploitable renewable energy has to consider all the criteria of sustainability. In fact, there is a trade-off between the ecosystem services and the renewable energy production, as already reported in this blog.


Annual energy potentially available in the catchment if all natural flows were turbined down to the closure point of the catchment with 80% efficiency.

EURAC is calculating the available potential for the whole alpine region by considering only macroscopic technical constrains. In the case of the wind power, we consider the power curves of standard turbines at a known altitude but not the geographical constrains (i.e. slope) or land use (i.e. protected areas, airports, agricultural and touristic area). IIASA will process this data including ecosystem services and other technical constrains, in order to get closer to the sustainable potential as explained by Katherine Leitzell.

Results will depend on the collected data quality and availability. In conclusion, the energy potential maps do not answer to all our initial questions but it is a good starting point, to face the problems connected with energy supply and sustainability. The aim of the project is to take into account the conservation of soil and biodiversity in the Alps and, for this reason, final evaluations have to be done by considering the specific environmental characteristics of each potential site.

About Giulia Garegnani

Giulia Garegnani is an Environmental Engineering at European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano, in the north east of Italy. EURAC researchers are working on the renewable energy potential and the trade-off between production and ecosystem services.

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