Examining the rare-earth elements (REE) supply– demand balance for future global wind power scenarios
Rare-earth elements (REE) are considered Critical Raw Materials (CRM; EC 2018; US Department of the Interior 2018) and essential in the technological transformation of the energy sector into carbon-free technologies such as wind turbines, electrified transport and LED-lights. The new technologies have led to swiftly expanding markets for REE products, in which China has achieved a monopolistic role in all segments of the REE value chains. Political strategies aimed to establish REE supplies outside China are currently being implemented within the EU and in other Western countries in order to ensure an adequate future REE supply. However, new REE value chains outside China have not yet materialised. The aim of this paper is to assess whether the global REE supply from present and potential mines can keep pace with the REE demand for the expanding offshore wind energy sector (Fig. 1). A successful development of this sector outside China relies on an adequate supply of particularly neodymium (Nd) and to some extent praseodymium (Pr), terbium (Tb) and dysprosium (Dy), used in permanent magnets for windmill generators. In 2015, about 82% of the global Nd-oxide production was used in the permanent magnets production (Adamas 2016). Here we evaluate the future supply and demand situations for Nd, Pr, Tb and Dy in the global wind energy sector in the form of three scenarios, one for 2020 and two for 2030 based on high and low demand. The balance is discussed. Our assessment reflects the challenge caused by limited insight into the REE supply chains inside China, and the figures presented in this paper are therefore only indicative.
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