Technology

Mined Metals: Generating New Technologies

November 7, 2023

Metals and minerals are vital for the development and implementation of renewable energies. They are the key elements needed for transforming the nation’s energy challenges.

Energy Generation Technologies:

Many renewable energy technologies, such as solar and wind power, rely on metals for energy conversion. Wind turbines, for example, are made of steel, aluminum, copper, and other metals, providing the structural integrity needed to harness wind power efficiently. In solar technology, silver plays a vital role in the production of solar cells that produce electricity using Photovoltaic power. How does this work? Silver powder is turned into a paste, which is then loaded onto a silicon wafer. When light strikes the silicon, electrons are released and the silver carries the electricity for immediate use or stores it in batteries. Learn more about the importance of silver in renewable energy technology.

Did you know?

Alaska is home to Hecla Greens Creek Mine, the largest silver mine in the United States.

Energy Storage Technologies: 

Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind can be intermittent, meaning they are not always available at 100 percent capacity. Metals are essential for energy storage technologies that can store excess energy generated during peak production and release it when demand is high or production is low. Batteries, which are essential for energy storage, use metal like lithium, cobalt, nickel, and other metals in their composition.

Transition and Distribution:

Metals are critical for the construction of power transmission and distribution infrastructure. High voltage power lines, transformers, and other components of the electrical grid are typically made of metals like aluminum, copper, and steel, which efficiently conduct electricity over long distances.

Durability and Efficiency:

Renewable energy systems often operate in harsh environmental conditions, such as extreme temperatures and volatile weather. Metals are highly durable and have the ability to withstand challenging environments, ensuring long-term efficiency and reliability of renewable energy installations. 

Rare Earth Elements:

Certain renewable energy technologies, such as permanent magnet generators used in wind turbines and electric vehicle motors, rely on rare earth elements such as neodymium, dysprosium, and praseodymium. These elements are crucial for achieving high-efficiency and compact designs.

Metals for Life:

Metals are vital for renewable energies because they are integral to the construction operation, and efficiency of renewable energy technologies. Harnessing this natural resource will help enable the transition toward a more sustainable and low-carbon energy future.