Sustainable and renewable energy systems are on the rise, and the need to capitalise on the available wind energy is one of them. The renewable energy sector in India saw the highest year-on-year growth in the renewable energy sector of 9.83% in 2022. As per REN21 Renewables 2022 Global Status Report, India stands 4th globally in Renewable Energy Installed Capacity (including Large Hydro), 4th in Wind Power capacity & 4th in Solar Power capacity. Wind energy has become an increasingly important renewable energy source, and wind turbines are at the heart of this technology.
The Ideal element for turbines
Wind turbines are made from various materials, including steel, aluminium, and copper. Copper is a crucial component in the production of wind turbines, as it is used in the generator, which converts the rotational energy of the blades into electrical energy. Copper, an excellent electricity conductor with high thermal conductivity, can conduct electricity efficiently and with minimal energy loss. This is important in wind turbines, where energy loss can result in a reduction in power output. A single 3 MW wind turbine can require more than 4 tons of copper, making it an important wind energy resource.
The generator’s efficiency in a wind turbine is crucial, as it directly affects the electricity generated. The generator is made up of a rotor and a stator. The rotor contains a series of magnets that rotate past the copper coils in the stator, generating an electrical current. The copper coils in the stator are responsible for conducting the electrical current generated by the rotor.
Copper is also highly ductile, meaning it can be easily shaped into wires and cables for electrical wiring and transmission lines. Windmills operate in harsh environmental conditions and are subject to strong winds, rain, snow, and other weather conditions; the materials used in their production must withstand these conditions. Copper is corrosion-resistant and has a high melting point, making it an ideal, highly durable material for use in harsh conditions.
Copper’s Relation with renewable energy
The use of copper in wind energy farms has several benefits. Firstly, it contributes to the generation of clean energy, which reduces the reliance on fossil fuels and helps to combat climate change. Additionally, copper is used in the construction of substations and switchgear, which help manage and regulate the flow of electricity. By enabling the reliable and efficient transmission of clean energy, copper contributes significantly to reducing the reliance on fossil fuels and combating climate change, making wind energy a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative.
Secondly, Copper is a highly sustainable material due to its recyclability and abundance in the Earth’s crust. It can be easily recycled and reused without losing its fundamental properties, reducing the need for new mining and extraction. By incorporating copper into wind turbine components, such as generators, cables, and transformers, the industry fosters a circular economy by minimising resource depletion and waste generation. Moreover, the longevity and durability of copper in wind turbines ensure a prolonged operational lifespan, maximising energy production while minimising the need for frequent replacements. This combination of sustainability and longevity underscores copper’s significant role in creating a more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy system powered by wind energy.
Additionally, with its reliance on copper, the wind energy sector creates many job opportunities across various value chain stages. From mining and extraction to manufacturing, installation, and maintenance, the demand for skilled workers in copper-related industries has experienced significant growth. Moreover, the local production and supply of copper-based components for wind turbines stimulate regional economies, fostering the development of domestic industries and creating a ripple effect of economic activity. These job opportunities and financial benefits boost local economies and contribute to overall socio-economic development, making the transition to wind energy powered by copper a win-win solution for both the environment and the economy.
Combating new challenges
Despite the many benefits of using copper in wind turbines, some challenges are associated with its use. Copper’s increasing demand for its use in Solar panels, Electric vehicles and wind turbines has driven its price. However, the benefits of using copper in wind turbines outweigh its cost, and there are efforts to reduce the cost of copper while maintaining its quality.
One approach to reducing the cost of copper in wind turbines is to increase their efficiency. This can be achieved by using advanced materials and technologies to increase the efficiency of the generator and rotor. For example, high-temperature superconducting materials can reduce generator energy loss and increase efficiency. Using high-quality copper with excellent properties can help increase the efficiency of wind turbines and helps in ensuring the best possible output. Additionally, research is being conducted to develop new materials and nanoparticles that can improve the efficiency of copper even more in wind turbines, but this is still in the early stages.
Another approach to reducing the cost of copper in wind turbines is to improve the recycling and reuse of copper. Copper is a highly recyclable material, and efforts are being made to increase its recycling rate in the wind energy industry. This reduces the demand for new copper and the environmental impact of copper mining and production.
In addition to the use of copper in wind turbines, copper is also used in the production of other renewable energy technologies, such as solar panels, Electric vehicle motors. Copper is used in the wiring and connections of solar panels, along with PV ribbons that are used to transmit current in solar cells and contribute to the generation of clean energy. Choosing high-quality materials like copper cables, PV ribbons or busbars that are made with high precision and are free from any deformities is very crucial to ensure the best efficiency and effectiveness of any power delivery system. The amount of contribution of copper towards renewable energy makes it an element that acts like a silent hero towards sustainable renewable energy creation.
Solar and wind energy applications have enormous potential to fight the ill effects of climate change. In order to combat climate change and depleting resources like fossil fuels, the installed capacities of both solar PVs and off-shore/on-shore wind farms must keep increasing steadily. As a result, the total copper content in these applications will also increase significantly. Using copper in wind energy farms is essential to producing renewable energy and shifting towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy system. While copper is expensive, its benefits it provides outweigh its cost. Copper hence is the ideal source of energy transmission and a significant contributor towards sustainable energy generation solutions.