Wind power plays a key role in curbing greenhouse emissions from other energy sources such as coal and gas, a new study has shown.

Energy from wind farms in the UK prevented almost 36 million tonnes of harmful carbon emissions in six years, equivalent to taking 2.3 million cars off the road, the analysis found.

Edinburgh University researchers studied National Grid figures for power generated by sources including wind, coal and gas between 2008 and 2014.

They said the study is the “most accurate of its kind to date” as it uses real, rather than estimated, energy output figures, detailing figures for every half hour.

The university claimed the study suggests UK government figures “underestimate” carbon savings from wind turbines by 3.4 million tonnes – equivalent to emissions from 220,000 cars.

The study also claims the method used by the Scottish Government “overestimates” the savings.

Researchers said their findings support building more wind farms in the UK to help cut carbon emissions and reduce climate change impact.

They said the study suggests wind power could play a key role in meeting the UK’s future energy needs and the methodology used could be applied to give accurate estimates of possible future emissions savings.

Study leader Camilla Thomson said: “Until now, the impact of clean energy from wind farms was unclear.

“Our findings show that wind plays an effective role in curbing emissions that would otherwise be generated from conventional sources, and it has a key role to play in helping to meet Britain’s need for power in future.”

The analysis, published in Energy Policy and supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, was welcomed by WWF Scotland.

Director Lang Banks said: “It’s great to finally have an independent and authoritative study that puts a more accurate figure on the massive amounts of climate-damaging carbon emissions being avoided thanks to wind power.

“We’ve long-known that wind power and other renewables were making a major contribution to reducing carbon pollution, but it’s fantastic to learn more clearly just how huge that contribution is.”