Friday 18th October 2019

Resource Clips



Infographic: Visualizing copper’s role in the transition to clean energy

by Nicholas LePan | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | May 28, 2019

A future powered by renewables is not on the distant horizon, but is rather in its early hours.

This new dawn comes from a global awareness of the environmental impacts of the current energy mix, which relies heavily on fossil fuels and their associated greenhouse gas emissions.

Technologies such as wind, solar and batteries offer renewable and clean alternatives, and are leading the way for the transition to clean energy. However, as with every energy transition, there are not only new technologies, but also new material demands.

Copper: A key piece of the puzzle

This energy transition will be mineral-intensive and it will require metals such as nickel, lithium and cobalt. However one metal stands out as being particularly important, and that is copper.

This infographic comes to us from the Copper Development Association and outlines the special role of copper in renewable power generation, energy storage and electric vehicles.

Visualizing copper’s role in the transition to clean energy

 

Why copper?

The red metal has four key properties that make it ideal for the clean energy transition.

1. Conductivity

2. Ductility

3. Efficiency

4. Recyclability

It is these properties that make copper the critical material for wind and solar technology, energy storage and electric vehicles.

These properties also explain why, according to ThinkCopper, solar- and wind-generated electricity uses four to six times more copper than electricity from fossil fuel sources.

Copper in wind

A three-megawatt wind turbine can contain up to 4.7 tons of copper with 53% of that demand coming from the cable and wiring, 24% from the turbine/power generation components, 4% from transformers and 19% from turbine transformers.

The use of copper significantly increases when going offshore. Onshore wind farms use approximately 7,766 pounds of copper per MW, while an offshore wind installation uses 21,068 pounds of copper per MW.

It is the cabling of the offshore wind farms to connect them to each other and to deliver the power that accounts for the bulk of the copper usage.

Copper in solar

Solar power systems can contain approximately 5.5 tons of copper per MW. Copper is in the heat exchangers of solar thermal units as well as in the wiring and cabling that transmits the electricity in photo-voltaic solar cells.

Navigant Research projects that 262 GW of new solar installations between 2018 and 2027 in North America will require 1.9 billion pounds of copper.

Copper in energy storage

There are many ways to store energy, but every method uses copper. For example, a lithium-ion battery contains 440 pounds of copper per MW and a flow battery 540 pounds of copper per MW.

Copper wiring and cabling connects renewable power generation with energy storage, while the copper in the switches of transformers helps deliver power at the right voltage.

Across the United States, a total of 5,752 MW of energy capacity has been announced and commissioned.

Copper in electric vehicles

Copper is at the heart of the electric vehicle. This is because EVs rely on copper for the motor coil that drives the engine.

The more electric the car, the more copper it needs; a car powered by an internal combustion engine contains roughly 48 pounds, a hybrid needs 88 pounds and a battery electric vehicle uses 184 pounds.

Additionally, the cabling for charging stations of electric vehicles will be another source of copper demand.

The copper future

Advances in technologies create new material demands.

Therefore it shouldn’t be surprising that the transition to renewables is going to create demand for many minerals—and copper is going to be a critical mineral for the new era of energy.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Share |

View All: News Stories