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Sun Oct 6, 2019, 03:56 PM

Resourcing the Fairytale Country with Wind Power: A Dynamic Material Flow Analysis [View all]

Given my hostility to the wind industry, said hostility stemming from the belief that it is not only ineffective, but also unsustainable, let me state that the title for this post is identical to the title of the paper I will discuss in it, and that three of the authors of this scientific paper work in academic institutions in that offshore oil and gas drilling hellhole, Denmark, despite having names with Chinese origins.

The paper in question is this one: Resourcing the Fairytale Country with Wind Power: A Dynamic Material Flow Analysis (Liu et al, Environ. Sci. Technol. 2019, 53, 19, 11313-11322)

The introduction, indicating that it focuses on the Danish case, which I hold up as an indicator that so called "renewable energy" isn't working and won't work, particularly because Denmark is a small country jutting into the North Sea, which it has laced with wind turbines and offshore oil and gas rigs:

Wind energy technologies are often regarded as an important enabler in many low-carbon scenarios, such as the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s Sustainable Development Scenario(1) and the global emission mitigation pathways in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s 1.5 °C special report.(2) However, transitioning toward a low-carbon society, where large amounts of renewable energy infrastructure are urgently needed, requires vast amounts of metals and minerals.(3) Such resource implications(4−7) of energy transition and consequent supply security(8−11) and embodied environmental impacts(12,13) have gained increasing attention in recent years.

For example, Denmark, a pioneer in developing commercial wind power since the 1970s’ oil crisis, has built up an energy system of which already about 48% of electricity is from wind in 2017.(14,15) The intermittent yet abundant wind energy in Denmark will continue to play a major role for achieving the Danish government’s ambition to have a “100% renewable” energy system by 2050.(16,17) Understanding potential resource supply bottlenecks, reliance on foreign mineral resources, and secondary materials provision is, therefore, an important and timely topic for both the Danish wind energy sector and Denmark’s energy and climate policy.

Construction and maintenance of wind power systems needs large quantities of raw materials mainly due to large-scale deployment of wind turbines and infrastructure on land or at sea.(18) In particular, two rare earth elements (neodymium and dysprosium) mainly used in permanent magnets have raised special concerns in the wind energy sector(10,19,20) due to overconcentration of rare earth’s supply in China,(21) sustainability of upstream mining and production processes,(22) and complexity of wind turbines’ supply chain.(23) Moreover, the wind energy sector also faces increasing challenges in both meeting future demands for several base metals (e.g., copper used in transmission(18)) and managing mounting end-of-life (EoL) materials (e.g., glass fiber in blades(24−26)) arising from decommissioned wind turbines.

A variety of methods have been used to translate wind energy scenarios into material demand. If the annual newly installed capacity of wind turbines is given, its associated material demand is often directly determined by material intensity per capacity unit.(5,8,9,27−30) If annual installed capacity is not given, its associated material demand can be derived from a life cycle assessment (LCA)-based input–output method,(31) economic model,(32) or dynamic material flow analysis (MFA) model.(6,11,20,25,30,33−36) The dynamic MFA model has been increasingly used to explore material requirements of wind energy provisioning on a global scale,(6,11,30,33,34) country scale (e.g., the US,(20) France,(25) and Germany(35)), or country scale with a regional resolution.(36) The principle of mass balance constitutes the foundation of any MFA, so that the annual newly installed capacity (“inflow”) and annual decommissioned capacity (“outflow”) of wind turbines are driven by their lifetime and the expansion and replacement of the installed wind power capacity (“stock”),(20,36) which has also been widely used in other anthropogenic stock studies.(37)

However, the current practice of modeling raw material requirement or secondary material availability in different wind energy technologies generally overlooks the hierarchical, layered characteristics of wind power systems. This is important because materials embedded in a technology system are usually distributed in its subsystem or subcomponents with varying compositions and recycling potentials.(38,39) In the case of wind power systems, materials employed in a wind turbine are distributed in its subcomponents such as rotor, tower, and nacelle, and their mass is largely determined by the turbine size (e.g., rotor diameter or hub height) and capacity.(13,40) These constraining factors and their leverages on the sustainability and resilience of the wind energy provisioning should be fully examined. Such information would enable wind turbine manufacturers, material suppliers, recyclers, end users, and policy makers to plan their material-related policies with a comprehensive understanding on a range of important aspects related to wind energy provisioning, such as secondary material supply, technological development, and material efficiency.

Here, we developed a component-by-component and stock-driven prospective MFA model to characterize material requirements and secondary material potentials of different Danish wind energy development scenarios. Based on two datasets that cover a range of microengineering parameters (e.g., capacity, rotor diameter, hub height, rotor weight, nacelle weight, and tower weight) of wind turbines installed in Denmark and worldwide, we established empirical regressions among these parameters in order to address the size scaling effects of wind turbines.


Some graphics:



The caption:

Figure 1. Stock-driven modeling framework for material demand of the Danish wind energy system at the component level. Elec. & Ca.: electronics and cables. EoL: end-of-life. MW: megawatt. PM: permanent magnet.




The caption:

Figure 2. In-use capacities of Danish wind power systems (onshore and offshore) (a) from 1977 to 2017 and (b) from 2018 to 2050 in the hydrogen, IDA, wind, fossil, biomass, and biomass+ scenarios. Note: for onshore capacity scenarios, the lines of the wind, biomass, biomass+, hydrogen, and IDA scenarios are overlaid by the line of fossil scenario, because they use the same target value.




The graphic refers to the Danish Master Register of Wind Turbines, which I have often appealed to in this space, at least in the E&E forum where I used to write from time to time.


The caption:

Figure 3. Empirical regressions among engineering parameters of wind turbines, (a) between capacity and rotor diameter; (b) between capacity and hub height; (c) between rotor diameter and rotor weight; (d) between rotor diameter and nacelle weight; and (e) between the square of rotor diameter multiplied by hub height and the tower weight. D: rotor diameter; H: hub height. Sample size: Danish Master Data Register of Wind Turbines (n = 9450) and The Wind Power (n = 1451).


This graphic cleanly draws out the number of wind turbines that will become landfill as the wind industry, um, "expands."




The caption:

Figure 4. Newly installed wind power capacity (for expansion and replacement) and decommissioned capacity from 2018 to 2050 in the hydrogen, IDA, wind, fossil, biomass, and biomass+ scenarios.


By the way, the "hydrogen" scenario has been under discussion with tons and tons and tons of wishful thinking applied to it. A pilot program on the Norwegian island of Utsira, which generated a huge internet hoopla, and was designed to power ten homes, was finally reduced to "lessons learned." The entire project generated many orders of magnitude of hype as opposed to, um, hydrogen.


Some useful text from the paper before examining the dysprosium and neodymium cases in graphics:

3.2. Material Requirements and Potential Secondary Materials Supply

Figure 5 assembles the results of material requirements (inflows) and potential secondary materials supply (outflows) during 2018–2050 under the six scenarios. Several key observations on the trends of inflows and outflows are detailed below.

•The inflows of bulk materials (concrete, steel, cast iron, nonferrous metals, polymer materials, and fiberglass) under the hydrogen, IDA, and wind scenarios will increase by 413.31, 211.91, and 328.83%, respectively. Meanwhile, the outflows of bulk materials will increase by 52.90, 49.86, and 33.15%, respectively. On the contrary, the inflows of bulk materials will increase at a slower rate under the fossil and biomass scenarios or fall slightly under the biomass+ scenario. Meanwhile, the outflows of bulk materials will decrease by 23.71, 15.98, and 37.76%, respectively.

•The inflow of neodymium under the hydrogen, IDA, and wind scenarios will climb to 14.50, 12.36, and 11.15 tonne year–1, respectively. Meanwhile, the outflow of neodymium will swell to 5.64, 5.71, and 4.98 tonne year–1, respectively. On the contrary, the inflow of neodymium will decrease at first and increase to 3.78 and 4.28 tonne year–1 under the fossil and biomass scenarios, respectively, or decrease to 2.46 tonne year–1 under the biomass+ scenario; meanwhile, the outflow of neodymium will climb up and stabilize at a certain level under the fossil (3.07 tonne year–1), biomass (3.34 tonne year–1), and biomass+ (2.60 tonne year–1) scenarios.

•A similar trend is observed in the inflow and outflow of dysprosium. The inflow of dysprosium under the hydrogen, IDA, and wind scenarios will eventually climb to 1.73, 1.48, and 1.33 tonne year–1, respectively. Meanwhile, the outflow of dysprosium will simultaneously grow to 0.67, 0.68, and 0.59 tonne year–1, respectively. On the contrary, the inflow of dysprosium will decrease at first and increase to 0.451 and 0.51 tonne year–1 under the fossil and biomass scenarios, respectively, or decrease to 0.29 tonne year–1 under the biomass+ scenario; meanwhile, the outflow of dysprosium will climb up and stabilize at a certain level under the fossil (0.37 tonne year–1), biomass (0.40 tonne year–1), and biomass+ (0.31 tonne year–1) scenarios.

•The aforementioned observations indicate that, in the case of both bulk materials and critical materials, the gap between their inflow and outflow will be enlarged under the hydrogen, IDA, and wind scenarios, and it will still be enlarged but to a lesser degree under the fossil, biomass, and biomass+ scenarios.


Nowhere mentioned here is the nuclear case, since we're in fairy tale land and there's no purpose to discussing things that might actually work.

Some mass flows under the scenarios explored in this paper:



The caption:

Figure 5. Material requirements (inflows) for newly installed capacity and potential secondary materials supply (outflows) from decommissioned capacity from 2018 to 2050 in the hydrogen, IDA, wind, fossil, biomass, and biomass+ scenarios. Note: positive numbers represent inflows and negatives represent outflows. Nd: neodymium. Dy: dysprosium.


From the text:

Evidently, Denmark’s wind energy sector would be exposed to high supply risk if the country is transitioning toward a wind powered economy in all 100% renewable energy scenarios. To demonstrate the imbalance between material requirements and potential secondary material supply, as well as its dynamics over time, we propose an indicator “circularity potential”, which is defined by the ratio of outflow to inflow. This indicator measures not only the material supply risk that the wind energy sector is exposed to but also to what extent the secondary material supply can potentially mitigate the material supply risk. We could observe that the “circularity potential” of both bulk materials and critical materials in the fossil, biomass, and biomass+ scenarios is consistently higher than that in the hydrogen, IDA, and wind scenarios because in-use capacities in the former scenarios will remain stable or only slightly increase and decommissioned capacities will gradually rise. It can be observed that the “circularity potential” of critical materials (neodymium and dysprosium) under the hydrogen, IDA, and wind scenarios will increase from 0.24, 0.17, and 0.26%, peak at 45.5, 54.30, and 51.31%, and fall to 38.91, 46.23, and 44.68%, respectively. On the contrary, the “circularity potential” of critical materials under the fossil, biomass, and biomass+ scenarios will climb from 0.34, 0.23, and 0.28 to 81.27, 77.89, and 105.55%, respectively. The consistently higher “circularity potential” of critical materials is explained by two factors: mounting secondary supply from decommissioned wind turbines and less material intensities of new turbines (see Table S3 in the Supporting Information).


Of course this depends on Denmark changing the way it currently handles it's waste, which is to ship it to countries including those with lower standards of living than Danes:

Although Denmark is sending its wastes abroad (e.g., Germany, Turkey, Sweden, Spain, or China),(49) the “circularity potential” can help understand to what extent circular economy strategies reduce raw material requirement in Denmark if the country is to stipulate extended producer responsibility (EPR) policies expanded across national borders.(50)


And of course, there's no indication that circularity will be economically or technologically viable, but of course, it's a good idea to demand that future generations do what we are clearly incapable of doing ourselves, the old "by 2050" scam that's applicable in this paper because of the Danes claim that they will be 100% renewable "by 2050" - when most of the government administrators making this claim will be dead.

It should be noted that harnessing secondary materials in decommissioned wind turbines, as identified in the “circularity potential”, depends on many other socioeconomic and technological factors as well. For example, a wide range of circular economy measures on fiberglass were identified in a prior study,(51) such as reuse, resize, recycle, recovery, and conversion. However, commercial applications of secondary fiberglass are extremely limited because of its low value and complex composition, the lack of material composition documentation, the long transportation distance, and the underdevelopment of EPR regulations. Another typical example is the currently negligible recycling of neodymium and dysprosium,(52) because their recycling technologies are still in their infancy. Reuse of a permanent magnet seems to be a better option, but the size and materials specifications of the permanent magnets available from decommissioned wind turbines might not fit future wind turbine design.


One last graphic:




The caption:

Figure 6. (a) Impacts of increasing market share on annual neodymium flows from 2018 to 2050 in the hydrogen, IDA, wind, fossil, biomass, and biomass+ scenarios; (b) impacts of lifetime extension on cumulative neodymium flows from 2018 to 2050 in the hydrogen, IDA, wind, fossil, biomass, and biomass+ scenarios; and (c) impacts of uncertainties in parameters of lifetime function and coefficients of empirical regressions on fiberglass flows under the wind scenario. Dashed lines represent the baseline values of inflows and outflows; solid lines represent the simulation outputs of the one-factor-at-a-time sensitivity analysis on 22 parameters or coefficients.


From the conclusion to the paper:

Using Denmark as an example, we presented a prospective model that incorporates the microengineering parameters, delivering a comprehensive assessment of the material demand and secondary supply potentials of wind energy development. Our results signaled that Denmark’s ambitious transition toward 100% renewable energy will be facing increasing challenges of material provision and EoL management in the next decades. We believe unlocking the material-energy-emission nexus, as we show in this study, can eventually help understand the synergies and trade-offs of relevant resource, energy, and climate strategies and inform governmental and industry policy making in future renewable energy and climate transition.


If any of this remotely troubles you, don't worry, be happy. It's not your problem; it's the problem of every living thing that will come after us.

History will not forgive us; nor should it.

Have a nice evening.

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