New Partnership to Extract Rare Earth Magnets from Retired Wind Turbines for Use in New Ones

Sustainable materials specialist, EMR, rare earth magnetic materials recycling company, HyProMag, Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, Magnomatics, and the University of Birmingham have formed a partnership which will focus on extracting the rare earth magnets from end-of-life wind turbines and enabling their use in new wind turbines, both onshore and offshore.

Named Re-Rewind, the partnership, partly funded by Innovate UK, aims to establish the UK’s first circular supply chain for the rare earth magnets used in wind turbines.

“From high-quality construction steel, copper and other metals to a range of rare earth elements (such as praseodymium and dysprosium), modern wind turbines contain a wealth of materials which, if they cannot be sourced from recycled channels, must be mined, leading to increased environmental impacts and resource scarcity”, the newly created partnership states.

“In particular, the wind turbine sector uses very large quantities of a rare earth magnet that’s an alloy of neodymium, iron and boron (NdFeB). These NdFeB magnets are critical components used in PMSGs (Permanent Magnet Synchronous Generator) in larger onshore and offshore wind turbines”.

Looking only at the UK, it is anticipated that there will be a 240,000-tonne shortfall of rare earth magnets in 2040 and there is no consistent route to recycle these materials, due to safety, economy and technical challenges in extracting and recycling the magnets, according to Re-Rewind partners, who say their project is set to combat this impending shortage.

“Thanks to the backing of Innovate UK and our outstanding consortium of project collaborators, we see immense potential. Each company’s unique expertise comes into play to tackle the complex task of extracting magnets from retired wind turbines”, HyProMag Operations General Manager, Nick Mann, said.

“This project is set to overcome the obstacles associated with recycling rare earth magnets from wind turbines, effectively opening up a new domestic source of these magnets, which is a significant achievement in itself”.

With the first large-scale wind farms, installed in the 1990s, now approaching the end of their typical serviceable lifetime, extracting highly sought materials from the wind turbines will not only help mitigate resource scarcity but also minimise the environmental impacts of both the soon-to-be-retired wind turbines and the next-generation fleet, according to information the Re-Rewind partners shared in a press release on the 11th of September.

“Our collaborative effort represents a significant step forward in securing the sustainability of wind energy. By establishing a circular supply chain for rare earth magnets, we not only reduce the environmental impact of wind turbine production, but we also lay the foundation for a greener, more self-sustaining future”, said Charlotte Stamper, EMR’s Energy Infrastructure Lead.


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