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Impact of the establishment of US offshore wind power on neodymium flows

Abstract

Wind power is often posed as a greenhouse gas emission mitigation option, yet from a global perspective, the constrained supplies of rare-earth metals required for large-scale offshore wind turbines seem increasingly likely to provide limits to offshore wind power and other rare-earth-metal applications in the coming years. A 2015 US Department of Energy study maps an ambitious roadmap for offshore wind power to be capable of meeting substantial US electric-generating capacity by 2050. Our study addresses the neodymium material requirements that would be needed. We find that regional differences in deployment schedules will result in complex patterns of new capacity additions occurring concomitantly with turbine retirements and replacement needs. These demands would total over 15.5 Gg (15.5 kt) of neodymium by 2050, of which 20% could potentially be avoided by circular usage from decommissioned turbines but only if recycling technologies are developed or, better still, magnets are designed for reuse. Because neodymium is deemed to be a ‘critical material’, these perspectives are vital information for the formation of policy related to wind-energy provisioning, to domestic production, and to the importation of the rare-earth elements that would be required.

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The data sources, variables, and model equations supporting the findings of this study are available within the paper and its Supplementary Information file. Additional questions about the data supporting the findings of this study can be directed to the corresponding authors.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Critical Materials Institute, an Energy Innovation Hub funded by the US Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Advanced Manufacturing Office.

Author information

T.E.G. and T.F. conceptualized the research and analysed the results. T.F. designed, coded and ran the models, and wrote the manuscript. T.E.G. supervised the project and edited the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Correspondence to Tomer Fishman.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Tables 1–11, Supplementary Figures 1–20, Supplementary References 1–11

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https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0252-z

Fig. 1: Offshore generating capacity and corresponding neodymium flows.
Fig. 2: Neodymium expansion and replacement demands and EOL outflows corresponding to the dynamics of installed capacity over time in six regions.