As a result of global warming, many countries are trying to cater to their energy requirements using green energy sources. Solar energy and wind energy have gained much attention as a result of that. Out of these two options, wind power is recognized as the most effective method available to generate energy. In order to generate this energy, large scale wind farms should be there in operation and they need to have efficient wind turbines.
Have you ever wondered what makes these turbines convert wind power into energy? They have in-built motors that are made out of a special rare earth magnet called neodymium. Special properties that exist in this rare earth magnet have forced people to use them in motors that are used in wind turbines. China is responsible for about 90% of the world’s neodymium requirements. This rare earth magnet is made as a result of chemical bonds that take place between other minerals and materials. Therefore, they need to be extracted using special methods, which cause huge environmental impacts. This has resulted in the production of inconsumable underground water in some parts of China.
Neodymium magnets can be considered as a powerful and strong magnet. Its weight is significantly low when compared to other rare earth magnets available. Moreover, it is affordable and the manufacturers can use them in their productions without any hesitation. These reasons have forced people to use neodymium in the production of wind turbines since there is no better option available.
The neodymium industry faced a huge problem after 2010 along with the restrictions that the Chinese government put on their rare earth magnet exports. Xingjian and Siemens, who are two of the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturers, have greatly been affected by these restrictions. However, Enercon, which is a German manufacturer that make direct drive turbines without neodymium have not been affected by this because they follow a unique path. They don’t need to use permanent magnets because of their unique mechanism, but the cost associated with the production process is extremely high. Therefore, many wind turbine manufacturers, especially in the United States have request China to continue their regular supply of rare earth magnets.