Europe, despite being one of the most densely cultivated regions in the world, is home to just two percent of the planet's unplowed fields, according to researchers.

Cape Town - The Cape region of South Africa is a potential hot-spot for wind farms as the country explores alternatives to coal-based energy, the energy department said on Tuesday.

Deputy Minister for Energy, Barbara Thompson said: “Wind is one of many resources our country is endowed with... It's our quest to ensure energy security for this country.”

The Western Cape and parts of the Northern and Eastern Cape, had ideal wind speeds of four metres per second or more, according to the just-launched verified numerical wind atlas showed.

“Within three to six months of operation, a wind turbine is able to offset all emissions caused by its construction, and can run virtually carbon-free for the remainder of its 20-year life,” said Thompson.

She encouraged “green economy” investment, which would not only yield profit, but also create jobs in the manufacturing of turbines.

As part of wind studies, the department erected 10 60-metre masts and collected wind data over a year.

It cross-referenced this data with global wind maps to get a reliable indication of wind conditions in places like Sutherland, Beaufort West and Vredenburg.

The Western Cape village of Napier registered the highest wind speeds.

The R22 million project, which will collect data for another two years, is funded by the United Nations Development Programme and the Danish embassy.

The online data is available to the public from Tuesday at no cost and could be used with commercial wind resource software.

Danish embassy commercial adviser Jacques Pretorius said the data was not only for people looking to set up wind farms.

It could also used by authorities, planners, developers and academics, he said at the Cape Town launch.

Renewable energy will make up 42 percent of new power projects in South Africa by 2030, of which wind energy would account for about half of that. - Sapa