Five Ways Copper Aids the Clean Energy Market
24 Sep 2018
Having access to affordable, reliable and clean energy benefits everyone. This week is National Clean Energy Week (NCEW), hosted by CRES Forum. This annual event aims to bring together individuals, businesses, nonprofits, industry associations and politicians to influence the discussion on clean energy and create clean energy solutions. CDA is an official partner of NCEW because copper plays a big role in the clean energy market. Here’s how:
Two of the primary sources of renewable energy are solar and wind power. Copper’s superior electrical and thermal conductivities play a big role in collecting, storing and distributing solar energy. A well-designed solar PV plant uses approximately 9,000 pounds of copper per megawatt of peak capacity. Similarly, a 1.5-MW wind turbine relies on about 4,000 pounds. Overall, the generation of electricity from renewable energy has a copper usage intensity that is four to six times higher than it is for fossil fuels.
- Electric Motors
Copper is also crucial in the operation of electric motors. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that motors account for 30 to 50 percent of electricity consumption in commercial facilities in the United States. These motors use approximately 260 million tons of copper, in the form of wiring. Copper aids in energy and cost savings and improves the motor’s electrical efficiency.
- Electric Vehicles
Another key contributor to a cleaner and more energy efficient environment is electric vehicles. EVs are rapidly growing and are projected to reach eight million by 2027. This would not be possible without the use of copper. Electric vehicles contain copper in their motors, batteries and inverters. A pure electric vehicle can contain more than a mile of copper wiring.
When purchasing dry-type transformers, attention is rarely given to the differences between copper and aluminum units. The initial cost for the more efficient copper units is much higher than for the less efficient aluminum units. This is because aluminum units cost more money in the long run due to conductor losses and increased stress on insulation materials from running at higher temperatures. Copper units may cost more upfront, but they are more economically efficient in the end.
- Energy Storage
Copper’s durability, efficiency and reliability play big roles in energy storage and technologies such as the grid. Devices such as Lithium-ion batteries, flywheels and generators, heavily rely on copper to operate. Copper’s demand is expected to increase due to its properties being vital to the grid’s network of plants, devices and lines that generate power for consumption throughout the country.