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I'd note that rare earth help make better magnets but it is possible to build wind turbines without them if need be. The main loss is one of weight, and maybe a few % of net generation.

Maybe CH can comment more on that.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 10th, 2009 at 04:37:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's true the prime advantage is weight, particularly with the bulky and heavy low speed generators for gearless turbines (and to a lesser degree hybrid turbines with a one or two stage gearbox.) net energy loss at this point is minor, perhaps less than a percent.

Saving weight is about lessening loads on rotating equipment, and lighter generators help.  perm mag gens when properly designed likely decrease downtime and mtbf.

There are likely to be other sources of rare earths down the road, but that's just speculation on my part.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Nov 10th, 2009 at 05:09:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are other sources of rare earths but capital is required to develop them.  Unless they are given an assurance of a market price adequate to service the debt they can't be developed. Likely only a sovereign govt. could provide such assurances, as the venture would be vulnerable to being sabotaged by the Chinese simply by selling rare earths at prices below the cost of production for the new mine. And a government guarantee would be labeled "Socialism!" We are hoist on the petard of our own economic ideology.

The USA could easily this problem by negotiating an agreement with China that either gets an agreement on the minimum prices at which China will sell rare earths or agreement to sell rare earths to the USA at the same price they are sold to Chinese companies and making access to the US export market contingent on that agreement. But that would be serving the national interest of the USA but not the corporate interests of the energy companies and the financial services companies involved in importing manufactured goods from China.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Nov 11th, 2009 at 12:42:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, one could leave this to the market as well. If the Chinese block all exports the price will go up and capital will be available outside China. Sure, there is always a risk that China undercuts the price ot threatens to do so, but that doesn't make much sense as China isn't interested in exporting these minerals. That's the problem.

I'm also sure new miners could reach long time fixed price supply deals with the large consumers of rare earth minerals, which are crucial not mainly for wind power but for hitech armaments.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Nov 11th, 2009 at 02:52:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
rare earth minerals...are crucial not mainly for wind power but for hitech armaments.

Well, I knew that iridium is often used as a "flashing" over metal parts used in electronics, as I used to purchase rotary switches with iridium flashings for audio console applications, and iridium is a rare earth, the one whose deposition at the boundary of the Cretaceous marked the extinction of the dinosaurs, of which my console was one.  :-)

If they are important primarily to hitech armaments the production could be guaranteed by the US Government, but commercial products would still cost more than alternate products made with Chinese raw materials, not to mention virtually free labor. Plus any commercial use of "strategic" materials would involve the user with bureaucratic requirements, etc.

Others could better judge the likelihood of investments for rare earth mines being funded absent guarantees, but I would favor slapping an ~ 20% tariff on ANY product containing embargoed "strategic" materials. And while we are at it, phase in tariffs to cover the cost of providing health care and retirement benefits to Chinese workers. Were China to respond by dumping $US they would be hurting themselves and the Fed is already involved in massive QE anyway.  What does another $2-3 trillion matter. It is fiat money anyway. Deal with consequences with new fiats.  :-)

The US would have to pay more for domestically manufactured consumer goods but would have a vastly improved national accounts balance. The ones hurt would include those who bet on the "manufacture everything in China" strategy. All of the "Free Trade" "Globalization" bull shit has mostly been propaganda in the service of the financial sector.  Time for an Industrial Policy worthy of the name that serves the interests of the average US citizen instead of the existing de-industrialization policy that serves the interests of a parasitical financial sector.  

Chop! Chop!      USA!  USA!  USA!

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Nov 11th, 2009 at 08:58:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, iridium is one of the platinum metals (along with osmium and platinum) but it is certainly rarely occuring.
by njh on Sat Nov 14th, 2009 at 08:56:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know that you're right.  It's the role that a marginal price and performance advantage coupled with massive wage arbitrage can play in leading the value added part of the industry (aka the stuff inside the nacelle) to cluster somewhere in China.  

That said, in terms of access to resources as a technological, rather than price, restraint, the problem is undoubtedly far larger for hybrid and electric vehicles.  I see huge problems there, simply in the quantities required for large scale production of hybrids.  Total 2008 production in China was  25,000 tons for neodymium and 31,000 for lanthanum.

Both are need to makes hybrids.

Each electric Prius motor requires 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) of neodymium, and each battery uses 10 to 15 kg (22-33 lb) of lanthanum. That number will nearly double under Toyota's plans to boost the car's fuel economy, he said.

Toyota plans to sell 100,000 Prius cars in the United States alone for 2009, and 180,000 next year. The company forecasts sales of 1 million units per year starting in 2010.

This means that if Toyota got the entirety of Chinese production it would be limited to around 23 million by the neodymium, but  the lanthanum would limit it to somewhere between 1.8-2.8 million vehicles annually. With wind turbines seeking these same minerals, that is going to create an issue.  At least in the short term, monopoly control over these minerals (at a level that OPEC could only dream of) could allow them to pursue a policy that made it nearly impossible for "green energy" industries to be developed, or sustained, in Europe and the US.

Plus, the question of whether it's hybrid cars or wind turbines that suck up that supply of rare earths is going to have to be answered.  Looking at these difficulties, I'm more and more enamored of the potential of using ammonia as an ertzatz hydrogen carrier, produced through electrolysis, to fuel vehicles.  Which means that thew turbines get the rare earth's, but if we are looking at this in strictly market terms, it's likely that the cars win.........

Ugh....  

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed Nov 11th, 2009 at 04:02:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
re ammonia and stored windpower, are you aware of stranded winds visionary diaries here and at dkos?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Nov 19th, 2009 at 08:24:53 AM EST
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