ENERCON WECs produce clean energy without neodymium29.04. 2011
ENERCON wind energy converters (WECs) generate electricity in an environmentally friendly way without the use of the controversial element, neodymium. The gearless WEC design on which all WEC types – from the E-33/330 kW to the E-126/7.5 MW – are based includes a separately excited annular generator. The magnetic fields required by the generator to produce electricity are created electrically. By design, and unlike the majority of competing products, ENERCON WECs do without permanent magnets whose production requires neodymium.
Neodymium has made the headlines recently because its extraction partly involves significant environmental damage. China, where neodymium-containing rocks are quarried in mines, is the main supplier of this so-called rare earth element. According to investigations by Germany’s NDR TV station, separation of neodymium from mined rocks results in toxic waste products (Menschen und Schlagzeilen and Panorama television magazines aired on 27 and 28 April). In addition, radioactive uranium and thorium are released by the mining process. These substances find their way into the ground water, heavily contaminating plant and animal life. They are seen as harmful to humans. According to the reports, part of the locals at the neodymium production sites in Baotou in northern China are already seriously ill.
ENERCON feels that these environmental and health aspects support its choice of WEC design. “We are a high-tech company that sets great store by environmental protection,” says ENERCON Managing Director Hans-Dieter Kettwig. “Our choice to rely on separately excited generators was the right one, not only from a technological but also from an environmental point of view.” According to Kettwig, renewable energies need to be viewed in their entirety in order to offer a convincing alternative. Producing clean energy is one thing; however, sustainability in production is just as important.