More facts about Wind turbines and rare earths

Rare earths in the Periodic Table

Rare earths in the Periodic Table


You will remember our earlier stories on the use of rare earths in wind turbines  (here and here), and how the demand for these materials is causing environmental havoc in China.

china rare earth toxic lake

A toxic lake in China – the result of rare earth mining


Your ‘too-friendly’ neighbourhood wind developer has probably said that there are no rare earths used in wind turbines – well now you can listen to the Vestas representatives explaining just how they are used in modern turbines.

Here is our short version (8.22),


or you can get the full Chemistry lesson (17.30 minutes) here at the BBC web site.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. Jackie Rovenksy says:

    And the supporters of this industry say they provide clean energy, all the while ignoring what they are constructed from – wonder if any research has been done into possible side-effects to those living and working close to the turbines using these rare earth magnets. Wonder if the workers are protected from physical damage when they are working on erecting the turbines and maintaining them?
    We know the heart has been ‘pulled’ out of the industry’s mouthpieces, what health effects can people expect in the future.
    How can they use something which is so rare it will be non existent in the near future – what will they use then? What will they use if one of their magnets needs replacing – will the turbine stand rusting while they think of something????
    A failure of common-sense seems to be the cry of this industry in its attempts to stay relevant.

    • David Mortimer says:

      All generators produce a magnetic field that is opposite to the magnetic field producing the electricity. (sounds a bit double dutch). What it does mean is that the “permanent” magnets used due to this oposition will gradually weaken regardless of whether they are Neodymium/Dysprosium or classic.

      “Old fashioned” generators used a smaller generator called an exciter to produce the magnetic field that the super magnets do now. It is a little less efficient than using “permanent” magnets but at least we had a degree of control over the generator output.

      However, efficiency means dollars and we all know what position the wind weasels are going to take.

      • Jackie Rovenksy says:

        Thanks David I am not as informed as you re the magnetic stuff, so I am pleased there are others like yourself who know about it. Do you know if there is any possibility that these magnets will ‘loose’ some of their structure during their lifetime operation – that is, will they or could they, throw off particles no matter how small and if so could they be rare earth particles.
        It would be interesting to know if Siemens or anyone else with regulatory decision making has investigated this and if so is there any chance that those living near the turbines and the maintenance staff could be adversely affected by these particles.
        We do know that turbines have never been assessed properly with relation to the locations they are being used in, so have these magnets been tested for the use they are going to be put to – other than performance?
        They are obviously looking to find something – anything to TRY and stop the noise the turbines make, and it would seem that any solution no matter how long it will last and how it could affect communities is better than none to them.

  2. E Griffiths says:

    Actually the represeantaive interviewed is from Siemens – I heard the report on the radio last night.

    What I did not know before is that magnets containing neodymium are unstable and readily lose their magnetism if a short circuit develops in the system. The rare earth element crucial for making the magnets much more stable is Dysprosium – something I never knew about or heard about until I heard it on the radio program last night.

    What’s even more interesting is that supplies of dysprosium are extremely rare and are due to run out in a few years time. That time can’t come soon enough.

  3. David Mortimer says:

    Well….If the Dysprosium reserve in the world is going to run out in a few years, that is a shortage that can not come soon enough.

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