Climate change | Renewable energy | Ecotrope

Another Limit On Wind Turbines And Electric Cars

Ecotrope | March 29, 2012 3:52 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:32 p.m.

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If wind turbines and electric cars take off as projected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and catastrophic climate change, two rare earth metals could limit their development, according to a new study published in Environmental Science and Technology.

If wind turbines and electric cars take off as projected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and catastrophic climate change, two rare earth metals could limit their development, according to a new study published in Environmental Science and Technology.

I’ve reported on how a less than smart power grid and consumer costs could limit wind turbines and electric cars.

But The Economist recently picked up on this study, published in Environmental Science and Technology, which found that there might be another limiting factor. Two factors, actually: The rare earth metals neodymium and dysprosium.

The study found if the use of wind turbines and electric vehicles are going to take off at the rate environmentalists are hoping, so as to reduce carbon dioxide emissions below 450 parts per million and avoid catastrophic climate change, the demand for two key rare earth metals would grow by 700 percent and 2,600 percent over the next 25 years.

Supply of the two metals, neodymium and dysprosium, is currently growing at 6 percent a year but would need to grow by 8 percent and 14 percent a year respectively to meet the scientists’ projections.

As The Economist summed up:

“Incremental improvements to motors and generators might be expected to bring demand down a bit. But barring a breakthrough in magnet technology (the discovery of a room-temperature superconductor, for example) the three researchers’ figures suggest that the world’s geologists would do well to start scouring the planet for rare-earth ores now.”

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