More Wind Power from the North and Baltic Seas

October 2022 | News

The production of offshore wind energy off Europe's coasts is to be driven forward.

Source: iStock/Lakeland-Photos

Massive expansion of offshore wind energy in the North and Baltic Seas agreed to make Europe less dependent on fossil fuels. This could increase the overall demand for critical raw materials needed for the construction of wind turbines.

The European Union aims to expand offshore wind power as part of its European Green Deal. In the years to come, more electricity will be generated from wind turbines on the continent’s coasts. The expansion plans are becoming concrete in two agreements between countries bordering the North and Baltic Seas.

Electricity Production Potential of 93 Gigawatts in the Baltic Sea

Germany and seven other Baltic Sea countries plan to massively increase the installed capacity of offshore wind energy, as reported by the news portal In a wind energy summit held in Copenhagen at the end of August, representatives of Denmark, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Sweden agreed on a phased plan: The current total capacity of 2.8 gigawatts (GW) is to be increased sevenfold to 20 GW by 2030. Then, it will rise further to 93 GW by 2050. To achieve this, Denmark and Germany, which dominate offshore energy production in the Baltic Sea with large wind farms, plan to expand their capacities further. The other countries bordering the Baltic Sea want to follow with large-scale projects. For example, Finland’s first large wind farm is expected to go into operation from 2026 to 2027, as stated by the industry association for wind energy.

North Sea Neighbors Want to Increase Offshore Wind Power More Than Tenfold

In the future, considerably more wind energy will be generated in the North Sea than before. According to a press release from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Actions, the neighboring countries aim to increase offshore capacity from the current 20 GW to an initial 76 GW in 2030, 193 GW in 2040 and 260 GW by 2050. This corresponds to more than a tenfold increase. Ministers from Norway, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Ireland agreed to this at a summit in Dublin at the beginning of September. If the planned expansion became a reality, 85 percent of the EU’s climate targets for offshore wind power would already have been achieved, said Kadri Simson, EU Commissioner for Energy, in praise of the agreement.

Wind Turbines’ Great Hunger for Raw Materials

The construction of a wind farm at sea requires various raw materials in gigantic quantities. The turbines, which can weigh up to 1,000 tons, consist mainly of steel, cast iron and concrete. In addition, there are technology metals such as manganese, chromium and molybdenum, as well as rare earths such as neodymium, dysprosium, terbium and praseodymium. The latter are in NdFeB magnets, which convert the kinetic energy of the rotor blades into electricity.
The share of rare earth elements in the total weight is small in relation to the bulk raw materials, amounting to only a few tons. Because of that “a significant increase in the demand for rare earths is expected … due to the anticipated major expansion in offshore wind turbines.” This is the conclusion reached by the German Mineral Resources Agency in its study “Raw materials for emerging technologies 2021” (PDF). The hunger for raw materials, for example, the rare earth element neodymium, could increase sixfold by 2040 if there is a complete switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources: Global production in 2018, which was 2,430 metric tons, would need to increase to over 13,000 metric tons over the next two decades. “The expansion of wind energy may have a significant impact on the market for rare earths with the low global production volumes of these raw materials in comparison to mass raw materials”, the resource agency concludes.

The production of offshore wind energy off Europe's coasts is to be driven forward.

Source: iStock/Lakeland-Photos

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