Poster at Life Cycle Management Conference 2017 in Luxemburg
As part of the German energy transition, offshore wind power plants will play a key role and the installed capacity will further increase within the next years. One promising technology for offshore usage are direct-drive permanent magnet wind power plants. Their advantage is explained by the lack of a gearbox and the resulting reduction in maintenance cost.
A critical resource for this technology is the neodymium within the permanent magnet whose supply is currently controlled by a Chinese monopoly. In conclusion, this analysis identifies the potential of circular approaches, such as recycling and reuse of the magnets, to save neodymium and thereby reduce the resource criticality of offshore wind power plants.
By means of a material flow analysis, it is first shown that the recycling of permanent magnets offers great potential for saving neodymium (see figure) and greenhouse gas emissions.
Figure: Neodymium flow along the life cycle of permanent magnets
Subsequently, a methodology for the identification of reuse concepts is presented and applied to the example of permanent magnets from wind turbines. It is concluded that the possibilities of a direct reuse of permanent magnets are limited. While the long lifetime and the ongoing innovations contradict the reuse in wind turbines, reuse in other applications is limited due to strict technical requirements regarding neodymium and dysprosium content.