Safeguarding supply

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Adam Barber
March 28, 2011
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Safeguarding supply

When looking at the wider renewable energy industry, scarcity isn’t really a word that is often used. After all, the thing about renewables is that they’re indefinitely plentiful, right?

Well, yes, but what about the supply chain?

At EWEA last week, US turbine manufacturer Northern Power Systems announced that it had installed and commissioned a new 2.3MW permanent magnet drive wind turbine, which as proponents familiar with the technology will testify, negates the need for a gearbox.

The upsides to not having a gearbox are manifest: the risk of internal fire is reduced, and as a consequence, operators are able to eliminate downtime, maintenance, and ultimately, costs.

The technology, however, has to rely on rare earth magnets – of which, according to a recent report from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, 97% of the global supply is produced by China. At present Chinese industry is forecast to eclipse its own supply by as soon as 2012, and, given the Chinese proclivity for producing its own version of Western technologies – Goldwind also produces a direct drive turbine – one wonders how the traditional manufacturers in the market place will be able to manage the future complexities of the rare earth supply chain.

When looking at the wider renewable energy industry, scarcity isn’t really a word that is often used. After all, the thing about renewables is that they’re indefinitely plentiful, right?

Well, yes, but what about the supply chain?

At EWEA last week, US turbine manufacturer Northern Power Systems announced that it had installed and commissioned a new 2.3MW permanent magnet drive wind turbine, which as proponents familiar with the technology will testify, negates the need for a gearbox.

The upsides to not having a gearbox are manifest: the risk of internal fire is reduced, and as a consequence, operators are able to eliminate downtime, maintenance, and ultimately, costs.

The technology, however, has to rely on rare earth magnets – of which, according to a recent report from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, 97% of the global supply is produced by China. At present Chinese industry is forecast to eclipse its own supply by as soon as 2012, and, given the Chinese proclivity for producing its own version of Western technologies – Goldwind also produces a direct drive turbine – one wonders how the traditional manufacturers in the market place will be able to manage the future complexities of the rare earth supply chain.

When looking at the wider renewable energy industry, scarcity isn’t really a word that is often used. After all, the thing about renewables is that they’re indefinitely plentiful, right?

Well, yes, but what about the supply chain?

At EWEA last week, US turbine manufacturer Northern Power Systems announced that it had installed and commissioned a new 2.3MW permanent magnet drive wind turbine, which as proponents familiar with the technology will testify, negates the need for a gearbox.

The upsides to not having a gearbox are manifest: the risk of internal fire is reduced, and as a consequence, operators are able to eliminate downtime, maintenance, and ultimately, costs.

The technology, however, has to rely on rare earth magnets – of which, according to a recent report from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, 97% of the global supply is produced by China. At present Chinese industry is forecast to eclipse its own supply by as soon as 2012, and, given the Chinese proclivity for producing its own version of Western technologies – Goldwind also produces a direct drive turbine – one wonders how the traditional manufacturers in the market place will be able to manage the future complexities of the rare earth supply chain.

When looking at the wider renewable energy industry, scarcity isn’t really a word that is often used. After all, the thing about renewables is that they’re indefinitely plentiful, right?

Well, yes, but what about the supply chain?

At EWEA last week, US turbine manufacturer Northern Power Systems announced that it had installed and commissioned a new 2.3MW permanent magnet drive wind turbine, which as proponents familiar with the technology will testify, negates the need for a gearbox.

The upsides to not having a gearbox are manifest: the risk of internal fire is reduced, and as a consequence, operators are able to eliminate downtime, maintenance, and ultimately, costs.

The technology, however, has to rely on rare earth magnets – of which, according to a recent report from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, 97% of the global supply is produced by China. At present Chinese industry is forecast to eclipse its own supply by as soon as 2012, and, given the Chinese proclivity for producing its own version of Western technologies – Goldwind also produces a direct drive turbine – one wonders how the traditional manufacturers in the market place will be able to manage the future complexities of the rare earth supply chain.

When looking at the wider renewable energy industry, scarcity isn’t really a word that is often used. After all, the thing about renewables is that they’re indefinitely plentiful, right?

Well, yes, but what about the supply chain?

At EWEA last week, US turbine manufacturer Northern Power Systems announced that it had installed and commissioned a new 2.3MW permanent magnet drive wind turbine, which as proponents familiar with the technology will testify, negates the need for a gearbox.

The upsides to not having a gearbox are manifest: the risk of internal fire is reduced, and as a consequence, operators are able to eliminate downtime, maintenance, and ultimately, costs.

The technology, however, has to rely on rare earth magnets – of which, according to a recent report from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, 97% of the global supply is produced by China. At present Chinese industry is forecast to eclipse its own supply by as soon as 2012, and, given the Chinese proclivity for producing its own version of Western technologies – Goldwind also produces a direct drive turbine – one wonders how the traditional manufacturers in the market place will be able to manage the future complexities of the rare earth supply chain.

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