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[Wind Power] Wind Power Expansion Encounters A Raw Material Crisis, Which Affects Blades

Aug 08, 2020

The production capacity of key raw materials has been unable to meet the global wind power demand. Such as wind power blades. It is reported that PVC foam is a key raw material for wind power blades. Due to the intensification of the new crown pneumonia epidemic in Italy, the main production area, the supply chain has been disrupted, which has an impact on the development of wind power.

In addition, there are three elements, neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium, which are the key raw materials of neodymium-iron-boron permanent magnets and are widely used in the generator rotor structure of wind turbines. Recently, the Blue-Green Development Institute of Shandong University, in collaboration with the Institute of Urban Environment of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Tsinghua University, University College London, Shanghai Jiaotong University, and Huazhong University of Science and Technology, and many other domestic and foreign academic institutions, published an article in One Earth, a sub-Journal of Cell. The latest research on the relationship between the resource supply of neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and other rare earth elements under different climate targets and the demand for sustainable development of wind power has been conducted.

The study found that the current production capacity of the above-mentioned key raw materials can no longer meet the global demand for wind power generation. The recycling of materials, improving the efficiency of use, expanding production, and innovating wind turbine technology will alleviate the shortage of raw materials to a certain extent.

The International Energy Agency and the International Wind Energy Association predict that in the next 30 years, the global wind power industry's cumulative demand for the three metals neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium will be approximately 460,000 to 900,000 tons. At the current production level, the cumulative supply of these three metals in the next 30 years is only 630,000 tons.

"Abundant reserves" but not "sufficient production capacity"

Dr. Wang Peng from the Institute of Urban Environment of the Chinese Academy of Sciences told the Chinese Journal of Science that the global reserves of rare earth elements such as neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium are relatively abundant and widely distributed worldwide, which are higher than the current demand. But its production capacity is very limited.

Although China currently supplies nearly 80% of the world's rare earth elements, China's reserves are only 36% of global reserves. Moreover, these elements will produce a lot of waste water, waste gas and radioactive materials during the mining and smelting process, which has a great impact on the environment. Due to the pressure of environmental protection and production costs, some countries have restricted their mining and purchased and reserve rare earth resources from China at low prices, which has increased the pressure on the global supply of neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and other elements.

"From this perspective, China is actually at the expense of consuming important rare earth resources and paying huge environmental governance costs, providing the world with high-quality and inexpensive raw materials, and making a significant contribution to the global clean energy." Wang Peng Say.

Get rid of the raw material dilemma

Experts believe that we can reduce the pressure on rare earth production capacity from the perspective of rare earth recycling and replacement. The premise is that some technical problems and costs can be effectively solved.

Rare earth is a trace added metal in the fan, and the recovery technology is difficult. The current recovery rate is less than 1%, and the recovery cost is high. Moreover, although the current replacement technologies for rare earth fans are trying to get rid of the dependence on rare earths, the performance and economics of these technologies are far inferior to the rare earth fan technology, and it is difficult to promote them.

At present, the wind power industry is not only facing the risk of supply shortage of important elements, but also facing issues such as power supply stability and grid absorption capacity. To this end, the state has introduced policies to support on-grid electricity price subsidies, optimizing the investment environment for parity on-grid, and full purchases.

The wind power industry has also been included in the "13th Five-Year Plan". According to experts, the wind power goal set in the 13th Five-Year Plan is that by the end of 2020, the cumulative installed capacity of wind power will reach 210 million kilowatts.

Experts believe that in the future, as an important renewable energy source, wind power will, on the one hand, accelerate its growth along the current development trend; on the other hand, it will also develop from land to ocean in space.

Vigorously developing renewable energy sources and achieving decarbonization of the power system are considered to be one of the important ways to deal with climate change. Researchers expect that the fast-growing wind energy industry will get rid of the raw material dilemma and achieve sustainable development.