Visualizing the Copper Intensity of Renewable Energy

The following content is sponsored by Trilogy Metals.

Visualizing the Copper Intensity of Renewable Energy

The world is moving away from fossil fuels, towards large-scale adoption of clean energy technologies.

Building these technologies is a mineral-intensive process. From aluminum and chromium to rare earths and cobalt, the energy transition is creating massive demand for a range of minerals.

Copper is one such mineral, which stands out due to its critical role in building both the technologies as well as the infrastructure that allows us to harness their power.

The above infographic from Trilogy Metals highlights the role of copper in renewable energy, and how the adoption of wind and solar energy will affect its demand going forward.

Copper’s Role in Renewable Energy

Copper has one of the highest thermal and electrical conductivity of all metals. As a result, it’s the most widely-used mineral among energy technologies and is essential for all electricity-related infrastructure.

According to Navigant Research, here’s how much copper wind and solar farms use per megawatt:

TechnologyCopper Usage/MW (lbs)Copper Usage/MW (U.S. tons)Copper Usage/MW (tonnes)
Solar PV11,0005.54.99
Onshore Wind9,5204.764.32
Offshore Wind21,07610.549.56

Solar photovoltaics (PV) primarily rely on copper for cabling, wiring, and heat exchange due to its efficiency in conducting heat and electricity. Wind energy technologies make use of the red metal in their turbines, cables, and transformers. Offshore wind farms typically use larger amounts because they are connected to land via long undersea cables (Read more...)