The Five Essential Components for a Renewable Energy Future

The energy mix that is being consumed by the planet is evolving. No longer are we fully dependent on fossil fuels that release dangerous emissions. The future is all about renewable and sustainable energy sources, in fact the IEA (International Energy Agency) predicts that by the year 2022, we will see renewable electricity generation to increase by over a third.

This is great news for the planet but it is not going to happen without some more technological advancements by the experts in the energy sector. These are five of the crucial components we need in order to see the future of our energy sector develop in the way we want and need it to.

1. Lithium

These batteries are used in hybrid and electric vehicles, which are hoped to replace conventional cars completely in the not too distant future. Lithium-ion batteries are also essential when it comes to storing renewable energy. We have seen these batteries grow and expect them to continue to grow in popularity for several reasons. Firstly, it is incredibly light-weight but has a high energy density. Another reason is linked to its ability to recharge.

2. Cobalt

In addition to lithium, we are seeing a rise in the importance of cobalt as we transition over to renewable energy sources. According to the United States Geological Survey, cobalt is leading the way in rechargeable battery electrodes. Making sure we have plenty of this useful metal will certainly hold us in good stead for the future. Furthermore, The Cobalt Institute, a non-profit trade association, has explained that cobalt is essential because of its role in the cathode of lithium-ion batteries. Wind turbines also use cobalt in their magnets.

3. Copper

It is known that copper plays a vital role in the renewable energy sector. Its many uses include cabling, earthing, transformers and inverters within photovoltaic solar cells according to the ECI (European Cooper Institute). The ECI also stated that copper is used in ‘coil windings’, which are found in the wind energy sector, within the stator and rotor portions of a generator. They are also used in high-voltage power cable conductors and transformer coils.

4. Silicon

No, we don’t mean Silicon Valley. This is real silicon, a non-metal with semi-conducting properties. The DOE (Department of Energy) in the United States said that silicon is the most common material to be found in solar cells. This is because silicon makes cells that are low-cost with a high-efficiency rate that last for a long time.

5. Water

Believe it or not, water is vital in the production of solar power. Virtually all of the big techonologies out there, including parabolic troughs and power towers, need water to produce electricity in a cost-effective and efficient manner. This information comes from the SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association).

Around 20 gallons of water per megawatt hour is used to clean the surfaces of the panels and mirrors that form the solar power generators. One particular facility, located in Nevada (Nevada Solar One) uses 850 gallons of that precious liquid per megawatt hour. This works out to be around 300,000 gallons per acre per year.