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Floris Siteur 2023The changing mineral landscape and its implications for the wind energy market
As the world moves towards cleaner, more sustainable energy sources, the wind energy sector has emerged as a key participant. However, beneath the surface of this transition is a complex correlation, including critical minerals that are required for the development and maturation of wind energy technology.
Critical minerals, often known as rare earth elements, have special qualities that are required for a wide range of modern technology. These minerals are critical in the manufacture of renewable energy technology, electronics, batteries and a variety of other applications. Wind turbines rely substantially on minerals such as neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium. Neodymium, for example, is a vital component in the manufacturing of high-strength magnets used in wind turbines to generate power, whereas dysprosium improves these magnets’ temperature resilience.
A number of variables have influenced the critical minerals industry in recent years. Geopolitical issues, weaknesses in global supply chains and increased demand from emerging and other technologies have greatly impacted the critical minerals market. China has historically held a strong position in the production of critical minerals, raising worries about supply chain over-dependence. As a result, countries around the world are diversifying their sources of critical minerals through projects that include domestic production, recycling efforts and international cooperation. Also, harvesting rare elements from the bottom of the oceans is on the agenda.
Wind turbine manufacturers are investigating techniques to reduce their dependency on specific essential minerals in order to mitigate any interruptions caused by mineral scarcity. This requires investigating alternative technologies, developing designs that use less key material and identifying a broader range of sources.
Furthermore, governments around the world are recognising the crucial significance of critical minerals in their renewable energy transitions. Subsidies, incentives and funding for key mineral extraction and processing are beginning to solve this issue.
Another emerging trend is the recycling and reuse of critical minerals from end-of-life products, which might relieve the strain on the main mining operations. However, considering the amount of material needed for the energy transition, the material acquired this way is by far not enough to manufacture the number of wind turbines needed.
The current trends in critical minerals are having a permanent impact on the wind energy sector’s trajectory. While obstacles and uncertainties continue, these developments provide unprecedented opportunities for collaborative enterprises, technical improvements and the establishment of a more robust and greener energy future.
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