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Rare earths demand set to rise, as new windfarms suck in supply


The latest big news in green energy is that South Korea looks set to invest US$43bn in the construction of a new 8.2 gigawatt offshore windfarm, which is expected to be up and running by 2030.

The envisaged 8.2GW amounts to the energy produced by 6 nuclear reactors, or the effects of planting 71 million pine trees, according to data cited by broker SP Angel.

Each turbine is likely to account for around 10 megawatts of power, and each is likely to contain 0.5 tonnes of neodymium and praseodymium in their permanent magnets.

That alone equates to an additional 410 tonnes of demand for neodymium and praseodymium.

When set against current levels of global production at around 20,000 tonnes per year, according to the US Geological Survey, that represents a significant chunk of supply.

Wind turbines with a direct drive permanent magnet synchronous generator are efficient at low wind-speed sites, are lighter and cheaper to maintain.

In electric vehicle powertrains, permanent magnet technology is also becoming critical.

In 2019, 82% of all electric vehicle powertrains used permanent magnet technology compared to 79% in 2015.

By 2035 it is estimated that electric vehicles alone could consume 100% of current annual neodymium and praseodymium production.

Furthermore, demand for magnets to supply to wind turbines is expected to grow at a 9.4% compound annual growth rate.

This all bodes well for those companies currently trying to shift the rare earths emphasis away from China, like Rainbow Rare Earths (LON:RBW), Mkango (LON:MKA), and Pensana (LON:PRE).

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