Wind Expansion Globally Will Need Much Higher Production of Rare Earths: IRENA Report

Highlights :

  • The report says that it will not be possible to meet the sustainable increase in demand driven by the 2050 global wind power targets unless rare earth minerals production rises 11 to 26 times.
  • It states that scarcity of rare earth elements can allow the high temperature superconductors to be used in direct drive turbines in future.

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has come up with a report named ‘Critical Mineral for Energy Transition: Rare Earth Elements,’ which says that the rising global demand in the renewable sector especially the wind energy sector to mitigate climate change challenges will need better supplies of rare earth minerals or critical minerals.

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The report holds that the wind energy expansion in the world is causing much imbalance in the demand and supply of rare earth minerals globally. 17 elements highly scarce elements are termed as rare earth minerals that are necessary for energy transition, electric vehicles and energy storage.

The report says, “It will not be possible to meet the sustainable increase in demand driven by the 2050 global wind power targets unless rare earth minerals production rises 11 to 26 times over present levels.”

“To mitigate the climate ravages, the electric vehicles and wind turbine capacity additions are ought to double between 2020 and 2050. It also mentions that installed capacity of offshore wind must grow from 35 GW to 2,000 GW,” it adds.

IRENA has also said in the report that between now and 2030, total demand for permanent magnets and the REE that EV and wind turbines contain may more than double under an ambitious energy transition scenario; it may even quadruple. The scarcity of rare earth elements can allow the high temperature superconductors to be used in direct drive turbines in future.

IRENA mentions, “Permanent magnets make possible small, light, space saving designs for the gearboxes of wind turbines and also enhances low voltage right thought capability, thus improving a turbine’s capacity to remain connected to the grid.” There is a general rise in demand for permanent magnet drives globally.

“Permanent magnet turbines drove three quarters of the world’s offshore installations in 2018, while gearbox induction generator turbines dominated the onshore market with a 52% share,” states IRENA. The report said that wind turbines that employ permanent magnet drives made up most of the remainder.

IRENA also finds that in 2020, the electric vehicles and wind turbines together accounted for around one-third of the permanent magnets used in 2020. The wind turbine production is expected to double by the end of this decade and electric vehicles manufacturing is projected to grow by an order of magnitude, says IRENA in the report.

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