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The Biggest Hurdle for Solar Wind and Electric Cars

Humanity will have to dig deep to combat climate change. Even though our planet’s surface is blessed with a limitless supply of sunlight and Wind , we must construct solar panels and Wind turbines to capture that energy, as well as batteries to store it. Unfortunately, this will necessitate the extraction of massive quantities of raw minerals from under the earth’s surface. Worse, green technologies rely on essential minerals in short supply, concentrated in a few countries, and challenging to obtain.

This is no justification to continue using polluting fossil fuels. However, few people are aware of renewable energy’s massive resource demands. A recent report from the International Energy Agency warned: “The transition to clean energy means a shift from a fuel-intensive to a material-intensive system.” Consider how low-mineral-demanding high-carbon fossil fuels are. It takes roughly 1,000 kg of minerals to build a natural gas power plant with a capacity of one megawatt, which is enough to power over 800 houses.

It’s around 2,500 kg for a coal plant of the same size. Solar power takes roughly 7,000 kg of materials per megawatt, whereas offshore Wind requires more than 15,000 kg. Remember that sunlight and Wind aren’t constantly available, so you’ll need to install more solar panels and Wind turbines to create the same amount of annual electricity as a fossil fuel plant. In transportation, there is a comparable imbalance. About 35 kg of rare metals, chiefly copper and manganese, are included in a conventional gas-powered car. Electric cars require double the amount of those two elements and enormous amounts of lithium, nickel, cobalt, and graphite, totaling over 200 kg.

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