The ethos of survival for
industrial mineral producers has always been one of market
diversification, ie. dont have all your mineral eggs in
one market basket. Therefore, new markets such as the
continuing development of alternative sources of power
generation are attracting much interest.
This fledgling market sector has
thrown up an array of exciting new opportunities for industrial
mineral applications. The trick of course, is securing, and
then processing, the right raw material to make the correct
grade for a particular application.
Offshore wind farm Lillgrund being built in the
Oresund between Malmo and Copenhagen
Siemens press picture
Most applications for minerals in this growth market are low
volume but high value, and demand tight raw material
Some of the new energy technologies
are more advanced than others, and have already sparked
widespread interest among mineral developers and investors in
their anticipation of future market demand growth for what have
already become strategic alternative energy
Clearly, lithium and rare earth
minerals are the buzz words of an excited, and at times over
excited, mineral investor market. But there are other key
minerals required, such as graphite, boron minerals, zirconia,
quartz, fused silica, fluorspar, filler minerals, and
fibreglass minerals (see accompanying table).
IM new power applications
||lithium minerals, fluorspar, graphite
||borates, graphite, lithium minerals, phosphates, rare
||quartz, fused silica, silicon carbide, fluorspar,
||fibreglass minerals, rare earths, boron, graphite,
The evolution of electrically powered vehicles has perhaps
grabbed the most headlines, and with it the potential for
increased use of lithium ion batteries (see Lithium
Supplement starting p.51).
Fuel cell technology also remains
an important and potential new energy source, offering
applications for borates, graphite, phosphate, rare earths, and
However, it is wind and solar
(photovoltaic (PV)) power technology which are perhaps the more
tangible growth markets for minerals since their development is
already relatively well established and their benefits, albeit
in their infancy, are being realised and are expected to make a
bigger impact soon.
Figure 1: Transforming the global energy mix: the
exemplary path until 2050/2100
Figure 2: Production process : the Photovoltaic Value
The following chart flow shows the different steps of
of a photovoltaic system (crystalline based technology)
Source: adapted from EPIA
New energy, new growth
In its 2003 report World in
Transition: Towards Sustainable Energy Systems, the German
Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) urged that
Éit is essential to turn energy systems towards
sustainability worldwide. Nothing less than a fundamental
transformation of energy systems will be needed to return
development trajectories to sustainable corridors.
To this end the WBGU forecasts a
significant change in the global energy mix,
projecting a steady decline in fossil fuel usage from 2030, and
an increase in new renewable energy sources, including solar
and wind from about 2020, with solar power expanding markedly
from 2030 (see Figure 1).
However, the onset of the recession
in 2008 and through 2009 impacted investment in renewable power
developments, which had enjoyed a heady previous five years of
growth. Initially, the once promising prospects for the sector
appeared to face a barrier at the start of their real
One chink of light was that
development costs were also plummeting Bloomberg New
Energy Finance estimated that costs fell by an average of 10%
across most sectors, including mature onshore wind, but
especially PV (around 50%), where there was a significant
oversupply in the market.
Unfortunately, this positive trend
was offset by higher financing costs, and competition with
falling prices for oil and gas as another outcome of the
But by the end of 2009, the sector
bounced back. Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported $145bn. in
total investment in clean energy, only a 6.5% drop from the
record year of 2008.
The worlds wind industry
defied the economic downturn and saw its annual market grow by
41.5% over 2008, and total global wind power capacity increased
by 31.7% to 158 GW in 2009. More grid-connected PV capacity was
added worldwide than in the boom year 2008.
Crucial to the future of new power
generation are government supported and regionally organised
schemes, as a well as the all-influential impact of politics.
Regarding the latter, although some technologies maybe proven,
there is no certainty in their timescales of coming to
That said, the raft of government
funded stimulus packages unveiled in 2009 for recovering their
respective economies also contained green energy components,
which was no bad thing for the sector.
Regarding green stimulus to clean
energy exclusively (ie. energy efficiency, renewable,
electricity grids, low-carbon cars), the USA is in first place
with $66bn., followed by China ($47bn.), the EU ($31.1bn.), and
South Korea ($16bn.). HSBC Holdings Plc predicts that global
green stimulus spending on renewable energy and energy
efficiency may triple in 2010.
Figure 3: World and European PV markets in 2009 in
Figure 4: Regional PV distribution in the World
Europe gets SET
Europe appears well ahead in
exploring alternative power sources, and it is perhaps no
surprise to see it leading the global solar market. Key among
its energy policies is the Strategic Energy Technology Plan
(SET-Plan), published by the European Commission in November
2007. SET aims to increase, coordinate, and focus EU support on
key low-carbon energy technologies, such as wind and solar
There are two main deadlines for
SET. By 2020, a framework in place to accelerate the
development and deployment of cost-effective low carbon
technologies, to help meet the 2020 targets to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, and ensure that 20% of
Europes energy comes from renewable energy sources.
By 2050, to limit climate change to
a global temperature rise of no more than 2ºC, to reduce
EU greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95%.
The PV market is already well
entrenched in our everyday lives through hand-held devices, and
domestic, municipal, and industrial applications. However, PV
use is expected to grow significantly over the next few years
and in a variety of new applications.
Of symbolic importance, early July
2010 saw the Solar Impulse HB-SIA, a prototype solar powered
aircraft, make an extended day and night flight over
The aircraft is powered by 12,000
solar panels built into its 63.4 metre wingspan, which feed its
400kg of batteries (which are lithium-polymer batteries).
Minerals in PV
There are two main types of PV
technology: crystalline silicon technology and thin film
technology. The majority of world PV capacity comprises
crystalline silica PV cell modules (78% in 2009) against thin
film PV cells (22%).
This ratio is expected to change
little over the next few years with thin film PV increasing its
share to perhaps 25% by 2014.
Crystalline silicon cells are made
from thin slices of a single crystal (monocrystalline), or
slices from a block of crystals (polycrystalline or
Thin film PV cells are produced by
deposition of very thin layers of photosensitive materials on
to a low cost backing such as glass, stainless steel, or
Figure 2. shows the main stages in
the production process of a crystalline silicon PV cell and
shows the input of industrial minerals: metallurgical grade
quartz; fused silica; silicon carbide; filler and glass
minerals; and fluoropolymers (for details of their
application see IM March 2010, p.83: Solar cell future for
minerals; IM May 2010, p.26: The cut and thrust of
Producers and developers of all
these minerals are already focusing on how they can maximise
the potential of this market. For example, silicon carbide
producers Washington Mills Electro Minerals Corp. and
Saint-Gobain SA have already developed special micro grit
grades for wire sawing silicon wafers; Vesuvius and Ceradyne
Inc. have invested in fused silica crucible manufacturing
facilities in China; DuPont, a major consumer of fluorspar, has
made considerable investments in PV fluoropolymer technology in
Figure 5: Production capacity vs. market outlook until
Figure 6: Annual wind power development
Source: BTM Consult APS
PV growth forecast
In 2009, the world PV market
increased its installed capacity by 7.2 GW (of which Europe
accounted for 5.6 GW), reaching a total capacity of over 22.8
GW worldwide. According to the European Photovoltaic Industry
Association (EPIA), this marked the most important annual
capacity increase ever, being particularly impressive in light
of the recent recession.
In 2000, world PV capacity was
about 1.4 GW, which increased cumulatively to 15.6 GW in 2008,
with a marked annual increase in growth starting from 2004.
During 2009, Germany remained the
largest PV market, with Italy ranking second, followed by Japan
and the USA. Germany is expected to remain the largest market
in 2010, while new markets in particular from southern Europe,
Asia and the USA are anticipated to grow significantly (see
Figure 3.). Canada and Australia are now starting to
develop in PV.
There is clearly a ramping up of PV
applications, as the EPIA forecasts for 2010 that the global PV
market could reach between 10.1 GW and 15.5 GW of new
installations in 2010 under the moderate scenario (business as
usual) and the policy-driven scenario (positive impact of
support mechanisms and political will), respectively.
Strong PV growth in Germany and
Italy in the first months of 2010 forced the EPIA to revise its
forecasts made earlier in 2010. In Germany, the market has
benefited from a combination of a proven incentive schemes,
good financing opportunities, a large availability of skilled
PV companies, and good public awareness of PV technology.
In the policy-driven scenario, the
global annual PV market could reach up to 30 GW in 2014 based
on favourable conditions established by policy makers,
regulators and the energy sector at large (see Figure
4). As can be seen, the key market regions will be the EU,
USA, China, and Japan.
Figure 5. shows the two forecast PV
market scenarios against projected PV cell announced capacity.
Crystalline silicon cell production capacity as well as module
(combined c-Si and Thin Film) production capacity is expected
to grow with a CAGR of around 22% over the next five
Figure 7: A typical wind turbine upper assembly showing
main mineral applications
Source: adapted from Siemens press picture
The ideal combination for a PV
growth market is a developing country with a large population
located in the so-called Sunbelt, ie. located
between 30 degrees North and 30 degrees South of the equator.
This is certainly where China and India score.
China was until recently almost
absent from the world PV market, but with more than 12 GW of
large PV projects in the pipeline, it could rapidly become a
major market in Asia and in the world.
According to the national energy
plan of 2009, cumulative installed PV power in China is
forecast to reach at least 20 GW by 2020, and there is
presently a surge in electricity demand. So the potential for
PV in China is immense, although how much comes to fruition
lies with the governments decision-making.
Similarly in India, PV potential is
described as huge by the EPIA. Recent targets
defined by the government include 20 GW of PV capacity in 2022.
The country started from a low 30 MW installed in 2009, but
could grow to 1.5 GW in 2014 in the Policy-Driven scenario and
probably well beyond afterwards.
Like PV cells, wind power, through
wind turbines, is now a mainstream source of energy. However,
Figure 6. shows how it has taken until as recently as the
mid-2000s for this sector to really take off in wind power
Minerals in wind
Figure 7. illustrates the business
end of a typical wind turbine and the main industrial mineral
There are essentially two main
areas for industrial mineral applications in wind turbines:
manufacture of the primary body and blades, of fibreglass or
carbon fibre; and manufacture of components within the motor
driving the turbine, mainly in the permanent magnets.
Research conducted by fibreglass
manufacturer Owens Corning Composite Materials LLC in 2009,
estimated that in 2020, there would be installed capacity of
120,000 MW, which would equate to 1m. tonnes of reinforcement
fibre required, at a rate of 7 tonnes reinforcement/MW.
This marks a tremendous market
outlet for minerals used in fibreglass manufacture, such as
lime, silica, soda ash, borates, fluorspar, and kaolin.
The turbine blades, which may be up
to 40-50 metres in diameter, and 80-100 metres in length, are
usually composed of a polymer composite material made not only
from fibre glass, but also using an epoxy resin, which may
contain mineral fillers, such as wollastonite, ground calcium
carbonate, and talc.
However, fibreglass has to compete
with carbon fibre-reinforced blades. Carbon fibre-reinforced
blades have been identified as a cost-effective means for
reducing weight and increasing stiffness. The use of carbon
fibres in 60 metre turbine blades is estimated to result in a
38% reduction in total blade mass and a 14% decrease in cost as
compared to a 100% fibreglass design.
Wind turbine motors utilise new
generation permanent magnets, which provide high performance
while at the same time being lightweight. Rare earth elements
(REE) and boron are the principal industrial minerals used in
such high performance permanent magnets.
Primary REE used in magnets include
neodymium and samarium, while secondary REE include dysprosium.
The workhorse permanent magnet remains the neodymium-iron-boron
magnet, although the samarium-cobalt magnet can be used where
very high temperatures are expected (see IM June 2010,
p.42: Minerals for the digital age).
In 2009, the worlds wind
power sector grew by 41.5% over 2008, and total global wind
power capacity increased 38 GW, or by 31.7%, to 158.5 GW. The
2009 market for turbine installations was worth about
Asia and Europe remain strong
markets for wind power, while the USA maintained its global
leadership in installed capacity, increasing the countrys
installed capacity by 39% (adding nearly 10 GW) and bringing
the total installed grid-connected capacity to 35 GW in
New wind energy projects completed
in 2009 accounted for about 40% of the new power generation
capacity added in the USA during the year, and wind power now
covers 2% of the countrys total electricity demand.
For the next few years, the GWEC
expects the USA to be hampered by lack of financing, and its
performance somewhat flat. In contrast, Chinas market is
forecast to soar and drive the Asian wind power market.
The GWEC predicts that in 2014,
global wind capacity will stand at 409 GW, up from 158 GW at
the end of 2008. During 2014, 62.5 GW of new capacity will be
added to the global total, compared to 38.3ÊGW in
Annual growth rates during this
period will average 20.9% in terms of total installed capacity,
and 10.3% for annual market growth
Strong growth in
Incredibly, one third of the 2009
installations were made in China, which added 13.8 GW of
capacity, more than doubling its capacity from 12.1 GW in 2008
to nearly 25.8 GW, and making it the worlds top wind
The Chinese wind power sector is
well established with turbine and component producers
satisfying domestic demand and now looking to supply overseas
markets. The leading two Chinese companies, Sinovel and
Goldwind, are now among the worlds top five wind turbine
Chinas Wind Base programme,
aiming to build 127.5 GW of wind capacity in six provinces, is
well underway. It is expected that even the unofficial Chinese
target of 150 GW will be met well ahead of 2020.
India also continued growing its
wind market with 1.3 GW of new installed capacity, bringing its
total up to 10.9 GW in 2009. The leading wind power state
remains Tamil Nadu with 4.3 GW installed, followed by
Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Indias Generation Based
Incentive, initiated at the end of 2009, is expected to give
renewable energy a substantial push, and the industry forecasts
additions of at least 2.2 GW for 2010.
Other Asian countries with new
capacity additions in 2009 included Japan (178 MW, taking the
total to 2.1 GW), South Korea (112 MW for a total of 348 MW)
and Taiwan (78 MW for a total of 436 MW).
The European Wind Energy
Association (EWEA) expects 10 GW of new wind power capacity to
be installed in the EU during 2010, taking total installed
capacity by the end of 2010 to almost 85 GW representing
an increase of 13%.
Last year saw a record 10.163 GW of
new wind power capacity installed, constituting 39% of all new
power capacity installed in the EU that year. Total installed
wind power capacity by the end of 2009 was 74.767 GW.
Although offshore installations
remain in the minority (<10% of world wind turbine capacity;
2.8% of EU capacity), 2010 is expected to see more
installations in offshore wind power, with up to 1 GW of new
capacity expected to be installed during the year, compared to
577 MW installed in 2009.
As in the PV market, Germany is
expected to be the largest market in wind power this year,
closely followed by the UK.
In 2020, EWEAs targets are
for 230 GW installed wind capacity in Europe (190 GW onshore
and 40 GW offshore) which would produce 14-17% of the EUs
By 2030, EWEA is looking to have 400 GW installed wind
capacity in Europe (250 GW onshore and 150 GW offshore),
producing 26-35% of the EUs electricity.