Visualized: Materials Needed to Power the World

Aaron Foyer
materials needed to produce 1 terawatt-hour of power

The energy transition refers to the shift away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal energy. While this transition is critical to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it will also require significant amounts of minerals and mining.

Renewable energy technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries rely on a range of minerals and metals, including copper, aluminum, lithium, cobalt, nickel, and rare earth elements. These minerals are crucial for producing the components and infrastructure required for renewable energy production and storage.

For example, solar panels require silicon, aluminum, silver, and copper, while wind turbines require steel, aluminum, and rare earth elements such as neodymium and dysprosium. Batteries, which are essential for storing renewable energy, rely on lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese.

As the demand for renewable energy grows, so will the demand for these minerals and metals. This will require increased mining activity and exploration, as well as the development of new mines and the expansion of existing ones. However, it is also important to note that mining can have significant environmental and social impacts, and these must be addressed and mitigated through responsible mining practices.

Overall, while the energy transition will require significant amounts of minerals and mining, it is important to balance this with responsible and sustainable practices to minimize negative impacts on the environment and local communities.


Quadrennial Technology Review: An Assessment of Energy Technologies and Research Opportunities