Alaska: An Energy Transition Spark

September 12, 2023

The United States has the means to lead the world in energy production and Alaska's metal and mineral resources could play a key role supplying the necessary elements for an energy transition. 

  • Raw material commodities in production throughout the state such as silver, gold, and zinc
  • Critical minerals exploration for copper, cobalt, graphite and more
  • Renewable energy technologies that will make the world safer and our environment cleaner

The green economy and energy transition will require massive quantities of these materials, all of which fall under strict federal and state mining standards that ensure responsible resource development. In particular, Alaska's robust regulatory system and permitting process are recognized as one of the most stringent in the world. 

Transforming Energy:

A World Bank Group report, "Minerals for Climate Action: "The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition," finds that the production of minerals, such as graphite, lithium, and cobalt, could increase by nearly 500% by 2050, to meet the growing demand for clean energy technologies. It estimates that more than 3 billion tons of minerals and metals will be needed to deploy wind, solar, and geothermal power, as well as energy storage, to reduce carbon emissions to targeted levels below 2’ C.

In other words, the clean energy transition will be significantly mineral intensive and Alaska has the metal and mineral resources that could change the game.

Solar panels need metals such as silicon, silver, aluminum, and copper

  • Silicon is used to make solar cells
  • Silver is used for electrical contacts
  • Aluminum frames and copper wiring connect the cells and carry the electricity generated by the panels

Wind turbines rely heavily on steel and copper

  • Steel is used for the tower and structural components
  • Copper is used in the generator and wiring system
  • An onshore wind plant requires nine times more mineral resources than a gas-fired plant

Energy storage technologies need metals

  • Lithium-ion batteries, commonly used in electric vehicles and grid storage, contain lithium, cobalt, nickel, and other metals

Hydrogen production is a promising energy carrier involving the use of metals like platinum, iridium, and nickel as catalysts

Transmission and grid infrastructure upgrades to accommodate renewable energy sources will require significant amounts of steel, aluminum, and copper for power lines, transformers, and other infrastructure components

Electric vehicles rely on metals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, and rare earth elements in battery manufacturing

Geothermal energy requires metals in the construction of geothermal power plants, from the drilling equipment to the pipes that transport hot water of steam from underground reservoirs to generate electricity

Did you know? 

  • A single F-35 Lightning, a stealth, multirole combat aircraft at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, contains more than 920 pounds of Rare Earth Elements.
  • A typical electric vehicle requires six times the mineral inputs of a conventional car? This includes gold, silver, cobalt, graphite, and  copper, all of which are produced or in advanced development in Alaska.
  • A 3MW wind turbine can contain up to 4.7 tons of copper? Alaska has some of the largest copper mineral discoveries in the nation.
  • Silver and zinc are critical components needed for solar panels, and both are mined in Alaska. Greens Creek is the largest silver mine in the U.S., and Red Dog is one of the world’s largest zinc mines.