Green Economy Series: Solar Photovoltaic and Energy Storage in the Electric Grid

Green Economy Series: Solar Photovoltaic and Energy Storage in the Electric Grid


Levin Sources’ Green Economy Series is an ongoing look at the minerals linked to the so-called ‘green economy’ and the impacts shifts in mineral demands may have on mining sectors around the world. By applying risk and governance lenses to our data, we give you an in-depth look at the changing supply chains powering green technology.

In Part Two, Solar Photovoltaic and Energy Storage in the Electric Grid, we examine 17 minerals used in solar panels and lithium-ion batteries.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology uses panels made of semiconductor cells that convert sunlight into electricity. In 2016, solar PV was the fastest growing source of new energy, overtaking coal in net growth for the first time. Governments are setting ambitious targets for increasing their solar power capacity and have already made significant investments. Countries like China, which accounts for over half of new solar panels installed internationally, and India, which has increased its 2022 solar energy target fivefold, are leading the way. As solar PV is more widely adopted as a source of energy, the electrical grid needs to adjust to a more intermittent supply of energy. Governments, including the United Kingdom’s, are investing in lithium-ion batteries so that the energy generated is stored and available when needed.

The minerals in scope are aluminium, cadmium, cobalt, copper, gallium, indium, iron, lead, lithium, manganese, nickel, silica, silver, selenium, tellurium, tin, zinc.

Minerals used for the production of solar panels and lithium batteries can be sourced through extraction of primary resources in Large-scale Mining (LSM) or Artisanal Small-scale Mining (ASM) processes, and through the recycling of secondary resources of scrap mineral. Primary sources are extracted directly from mineral ore deposits in the earth. Recycling can reduce pressure on reserves of certain minerals and reduce emissions caused by extracting them, as the process for recycling minerals like aluminium, lead and copper uses significantly less energy than primary extraction.

In this paper, you will find:

  • An introduction to solar photovoltaic and energy storage technologies;
  • Information on how these minerals are sourced;
  • Risks associated with the supply chains of these minerals, and how they might change with demand;
  • Analysis of the governance of countries with the highest market and production shares of the minerals important in solar PV and lithium-ion batteries; and
  • Innovations in the sector, market predictions, and conclusions.

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