Pan-European Mapping of Underutilized Land for Bioenergy Production

Publication from Digital

Manuela Hirschmugl, Carina Sobe, Cosette Khawaja, Rainer Janssen, Lorenzo Traverso.

Land 2021, 10(2), 102 , 12/2020


This study aims at identifying underutilized land potentially suitable for bioenergy production in Europe by means of remote sensing time series analysis. The background is the Revised Renewable Energy Directive (REDII) requesting that 32% of Europe’s energy production shall come from renewable energy sources until 2030. In order to avoid the food versus fuel debate, we only considered land that has not been used in the previous five years. Satellite remote sensing is the only technique that allows for the assessment of the usage of land for such a long time span at the pan-European scale with reasonable efforts. We used Landsat 8 (L8) data for the full five year time period 2015–2019 and included additional Sentinel-2 (S2) data for 2018 and 2019. The analysis was based on a stratified approach for biogeographical regions and countries using Google Earth Engine. To our knowledge, this is the first work that employs high resolution time series data for pan-European mapping of underutilized land. The average patch size of underutilized land was found to be between 23.2 ha and 49.6 ha, depending on the biogeographical region. The results show an overall accuracy of more than 85% with a confidence interval (CI) of 1.55% at the 95% confidence level (CL). The classification suggests that at total of 5.3 million ha of underutilized land in Europe is potentially available for agricultural bioenergy production.

Keywords: time series; bioenergy; underutilized land; remote sensing