The electric power system will play a key role to achieve a balance between electricity supply, conversion, transport and use of energy in order to reach a secure, competitive and sustainable energy system by 2050 in the European Union. In that sense, one of the most important items to be considered is the massive integration of wind energy into the smart grids, since this kind of energy is the most sustainable and contribute to the balance and accomplishment of the everyday most high-demanded electricity networks requirements. Therefore the European forecast shows that by 2020, up to 20% of the EU electricity will be produced by wind energy.
Regarding wind energy technologies, it is remarkable to say that it has been continuously required a higher level of efficiency, availability, reliability, easy control, easy connexion and cost reduction (both initial operation and maintenance costs). To achieve this aim, from 2007 to 2009 a fast evolution in wind power electric generators with permanent magnets (PM) technology was carried out for wind turbines (WT) over 1 MW. The application of PM in large electric generators (PMG) supposed a breakthrough in the energy generation system and directly contributes to:
- an increase in energy efficiency of WT generators (WTG)
- a rise of energy quality delivered (better grid connection)
- a reduction of maintenance costs and time
- a rise of the generation unit reliability
The most stored magnetic energy a magnet has, the most electric energy is possible to extract from a wind turbine (connected to a permanent magnet generator). In terms of value, two-thirds of the permanent magnet market is dominated by those containing rare earth elements (REEs). Thus during the last 10-15 years multiple attempts have been carried out in order to develop high efficient and reliable electrical machines with NdFeB magnet rotors. During the last decade, large research efforts were devoted to the development of highly efficient and reliable WT based on NdFeB PM, being still necessary to break through 3 important barriers:
- Strong dependency on China for supply and high price of rare earth elements (REEs).
- High difficulty of substitution of REE in PM.
- Several challenges have to be overcome for commercially viable, large-scale REE recycling.
In this context, NEOHIRE will help EU: i) to achieve the desired decrease of REE and critical raw materials (CRM) external demand for PM in WTG, ii) to overcome the bottleneck in the supply-chain of REE and CRM for PM massive integration into the electric power system, and iii) to propose a commercially viable, large-scale REE recycling of PM in WTG. These will be achieved by developing a new concept of NdFeB resin bonded PM for WT and two REE and CRM recycling strategies for current and future PM.
NEOHIRE main objective is to reduce the use of rare earth elements (REE), and Co and Ga (CRM), in the permanent magnets used in wind turbine generators (WTG). This objective is mainly achieved through the development of: a) new concept of bonded NdFeB magnet able to substitute the present state-of-the-art sintered magnets for WT, and b) new recycling techniques for these CRM from the future and current permanent magnets (PM) wastes. In this way, the EU external demand of REE and CRM for PM in WTG will be reduced in a 50% (thanks to a strong reduction of the REE (Dy and Nd) and CRM (Co and Ga) needed to manufacture NEOHIRE PM for WT and to a high supply-chain based on reuse).