The World’s Massive Need For More Solar Panels Has One Shiny Catch – by Clare Watson (Science Alert – January 21, 2022)

There’s a major catch to the world’s need for solar panels, a new analysis suggests. The booming solar panel market – which is critical for a clean energy future – could demand close to half the world’s aluminum by 2050. Thankfully, there are ways we can mitigate this.

Unlike more precious metals, such as the lithium and cobalt used in rechargeable batteries, the scarcity of aluminum is not the issue; in fact, it is the most abundant metal on Earth. But the production of pure aluminum which is used in solar panel frames comes with a huge energy cost that could translate to bulk emissions.

According to the International Energy Agency, solar panels are predicted to provide roughly a third of the world’s total electricity demand by 2050. In 2019, just over 2 percent of global electricity came from solar – but solar is producing the cheapest electricity in history and renewable energy is being installed at a record rate.

“This represents an enormous manufacturing task that will create a demand for a variety of minerals,” a team of photovoltaics researchers, led by Alison Lennon from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, explains in their paper.

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