Observing the world of renewable energy and sustainable living

Iron Ore Mining for Wind Turbines

World map of countries that matter in iron production. Global annual production 3.3 billion ton. China (1.4), Australia (0.8) and Brazil (0.4) together produce ca. 82% of that amount.

For the global renewable energy transition to work, hundreds of thousands of steel wind towers, monopiles and nacelle’s need to be built. The good news is, the iron is there and currently relatively cheap.

Price iron ore: $85/ton [source]
Price steel plate: $470/ton [source]
(Steel plate can be used to manufacture monopiles and towers, see video at the bottom)

Weight of a large offshore wind turbine:

Tower head mass: 60 ton/MW [pdf]
Monopile 5 MW turbine: 2200 ton [source] (strong correl. with water depth)
Tower 5 MW turbine 100 m: 389 ton [pdf]

Rule of thumb 5 MW offshore wind turbine steel requirements: 300 + 2200 + 400 = 2900 ton

One million 5 MW offshore wind turbines require 2.9 billion ton or 88% annual global steel production.

Total world electricity consumption was 19,504 TWh in 2013. [source]
Annual electricity production 5 MW offshore ind turbine: 15 million kWh or 15 GWh

In other words: with 1.3 million offshore 5 MW wind turbines you have your global 2013 electricity consumption covered, if you ignore for a moment aspects like storage. And this time entirely fossil free, which was the purpose of the operation. But this ‘back-of-an-envelope’ exercise should give you an idea of the scale of the challenge.

[] – List of countries by iron ore production
[] – True giants of mining: World’s top 10 iron ore mines

Offshore wind turbine monopile production from steel plate.


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