Home > Sustainability > Copper Use in Renewable Energy Ensures High Performance and Reliability (Part II)

Copper Use in Renewable Energy Ensures High Performance and Reliability (Part II)

By Zolaikha Strong, Director of the Copper Development Association (CDA) Sustainable Energy Program

The nation’s demand for energy continues to grow. We’re seeing more interest in renewable energy sources, as an alternative to fossil fuels. These energy sources are abundant and can generate enough electricity to meet our increasing demands.

This is good news for copper. Copper is a key component in such renewable systems as wind power, photovoltaic (PV) solar and geothermal systems, which all have copper components in their wiring, tubing and cables. In fact, the amount of copper used in renewable energy is up to six times greater than traditional electrical generation systems.

A recent study by BFF Associates called Current and Projected Wind and Solar Renewable Electric Generating Capacity and Resulting Copper Demand looked at copper capacity in different types of energy systems. They include:

Wind energy provides an alternative energy source

Off-shore wind energy systems: These are located in bodies of water to generate electricity from wind and are considered the greatest source of opportunity for growth in the use of copper. The cables used in off-shore systems are normally 100% copper because of its anti-fouling capability. There are currently project launches in Massachusetts, Maine, New Jersey and Ohio.

Land-based wind energy systems: The U.S. has one of the fastest growing markets for wind power worldwide, increasing demand for copper grounding and power cables.

PV solar installations: This method generates electrical power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity by using semiconductors. Growth in this area is strong, especially with utilities, whose installations have quadrupled since 2008.

Investments in renewable and energy efficient technologies also have increased exponentially in the last eight years. According to Bloomberg’s Sustainable Energy in America 2013 Fact Book, investment in U.S. clean energy increased to $44.2 billion up from $10.4 billion in 2004. Renewable energy accounted for 9.4 percent of the total energy supply in the U.S. in 2012.

Energy Storage is Key

We know we can’t rely only on nature’s power. The wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. Yet the demand for energy never wavers. Energy storage can address the problem of variability by backing up power on the grid.

The CDA commissioned a study by KEMA, Inc., titled, Market Evaluation for Energy Storage in the United States. The study found that between two- and four gigawatts (GW) of grid energy could be developed in the U.S. by 2017. Some forecasts predict that $240 billion will be invested in the storage grid by 2022.

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