According to a recent analysis, there are enough rare earth minerals to make the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The study allayed some people’s worries that there aren’t enough essential elements on the planet for all the wind turbines, solar panels, and other components required to transition to green energy and reduce global warming.
According to the Executive Summary from the International Energy Agency (IEA), creating infrastructure for fossil fuels often takes more of these minerals than building wind farms, electric vehicles (EVs), and solar photovoltaic facilities.
A typical EV requires six times the amount of mineral resources as a conventional car, whereas an offshore wind power station consumes nine times the number of minerals as an agas-fired plant.’
Renewable energy sources are being used in new investments more and more, and since 2010, the average amount of rare minerals required for a new unit of power generation capacity has increased by 50%.
Rare earth minerals are not as uncommon as their name might suggest. In fact, according to The Associated Press, the U.S. Geological Survey has called them “quite numerous.”
Rare minerals are utilized in computer displays, LED lightbulbs, and cell phones in addition to the machinery required for electric vehicles and renewable energy production.
Scientists examined 20 different power sources and the minerals and raw materials needed to generate electricity in the study Future demand for electricity generation materials under different climate mitigation scenarios, which was published in the journal rule. This included common materials like glass, cement, and steel as well as less common ones like those used to make glass, cement, and steel.
The amount of pollution caused by mining and the supplies required to reach global carbon dioxide emission reduction targets were also calculated by the researchers.
With progressively more ambitious climate targets, the pace at which new non-emitting power generation infrastructure must be installed quickens. Future development of non-emitting generation capacity will outpace historical growth rates in electrical generation capacity, the study found, under scenarios that keep global mean warming to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.
“The power sector will undergo sweeping transformation and growth, requiring significant inputs of emission-intensive raw materials, from structural materials like cement, steel, and fiberglass to critical materials like rare earth (in particular neodymium [Nd], dysprosium [Dy], and semi-/precious metals.
According to the study’s findings, while increased mining for rare earth minerals will be required, it won’t significantly worsen global warming because there are enough minerals to meet demand, according to The Associated Press.
As The Associated Press noted, Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at the tech firm Stripe and Berkeley Earth and a co-author of the study, said, “Decarbonization is going to be enormous and messy, but at the same time we can accomplish it.” “I don’t think we’ll run out of these materials,” the speaker said.
According to Hausfather, the electricity sector uses between one-third and fifty percent of the required minerals, but the researchers will next look at the more complex mineral requirements for batteries.
Mineral shortages may occur depending on how soon the switch to renewable energy occurs. Tellurium is one element whose supply may be short supply but which can be replaced, according to Hausfather.
Tellurium is utilized in industrial solar farms. Although there are substantial stockpiles of the metal dysprosium, which is used in the magnets of wind turbines, there could be a brief shortage if there is a sudden move toward green energy.