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Why Copper and Nickel Are the Key Metals for Energy Utopia

Written By Govind Bhutada

Graphics & Design

  • Athul Alexander

Published June 6, 2023

Updated June 5, 2023

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The following content is sponsored by CanAlaska Uranium

Copper and Nickel: The Key Metals for Energy Utopia

The raw materials required to transport and store clean energy are critical for the energy transition. Copper and nickel are two such metals.

Copper is essential for the transmission and distribution of clean electricity, while nickel powers lithium-ion batteries for EVs and energy storage systems.

The above infographic sponsored by CanAlaska Uranium explores how copper and nickel are enabling green technologies and highlights why they are essential for a utopian energy future.

Copper: Transporting Clean Energy

When it comes to conducting electricity, copper is second only to silver. This property makes it an indispensable building block for multiple energy technologies, including:

  • Electric vehicles: On average, a typical electric car contains 53kg of copper, primarily found in the wirings and car components.
  • Solar power: Solar panels use 2.8 tonnes of copper per megawatt (MW) of installed capacity, mainly for heat exchangers, wiring, and cabling.
  • Wind energy: Onshore wind turbines contain 2.9 tonnes of copper per MW of capacity. Offshore wind turbines, which typically use copper in undersea cables, use 8 tonnes per MW.
  • Power grids: Copper, alongside aluminum, is the preferred choice for electric transmission and distribution networks due to its reliability and efficiency.

BloombergNEF projects that, due to its expansive role in clean energy, the demand for copper from clean energy applications will double by 2030 from 2020 levels. The table below compares annual copper demand from clean energy, in tonnes, in 2020 vs. 2030:

Year Power Grids EV batteries Wind Solar EV charging Total
2020 1,700,000 210,000 165,000 83,000 4,200 2,162,200
2030P 2,000,000 1,800,000 352,000 104,000 47,100 4,303,100

Although power grids will account for the largest portion of annual copper demand through 2030, EV batteries are projected to spearhead the growth. 

Nickel: Powering Lithium-ion Batteries

Nickel is a key ingredient in lithium-ion batteries for EVs and stationary energy storage systems. For EVs, nickel-based cathodes offer more energy density and longer driving ranges as compared to cathodes with lower nickel content. 

According to Wood Mackenzie, batteries could account for 41% of global nickel demand by 2030, up from just 7% in 2021.

End-use 2021 % of Nickel Demand 2040P % of Nickel Demand
Stainless steel 69% 45%
Battery precursors 7% 41%
Other 24% 14%

Nickel-based cathodes for lithium-ion batteries, including NMC (Nickel Manganese Cobalt) and NCA (Nickel Cobalt Aluminum), are prevalent in EVs and make up more than 50% of the battery cathode chemistry market.

A Bright Future for Copper and Nickel

Both copper and nickel are essential building blocks of EVs and other key technologies for the energy transition and ultimately energy utopia. 

As more such technologies are deployed, these metals are likely to be in high demand, with clean energy applications supplementing their existing industrial uses.

CanAlaska is a leading exploration company with a strategic portfolio of uranium, nickel, and copper projects in North America. Click here to learn more.

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Related Topics: #nickel #copper #solar #wind #clean energy #evs #energy transition #canalaska-uranium #base metals

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