Importance of copper for wind power
The role and importance of renewable energy sources, or RES for short, has been growing for several years, but this year their perception has changed significantly.
The events in Ukraine have forced many countries around the world to seek alternative sources of energy to reduce or replace fossil fuel supplies from the East in the future. Thus, power plants and wind farms, as well as solar energy, are becoming increasingly important.
What does copper have to do with all this?
Without it, wind farms could not exist. Actually, it constitutes the copper bloodstream of converters and inverters to the generator, which is placed in the nacelle of the turbine.
Advantages of wind power plants
Renewable energy sources have numerous advantages - in addition to energy independence, which a large part of European countries strive for, RES do not emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which contributes to drastic climate change. Secondly, they are renewable and infinite, allowing for environmentally friendly energy production. This is why wind power is growing rapidly around the world. The capacities of wind power plants are getting higher and higher, and consequently their potential for electricity production is increasing.
Copper is used in wind power installations in Poland and other European countries, but the largest wind farms are located in such economic powers as the USA, China and India. Wind farms generating the largest amounts of power include:
- The Jiuquan Wind Power Base in China (Gobi Desert) - about 10 gigawatts (but there are plans to increase capacity to 20 gigawatts with 7,000 wind turbines in operation),
- Alta Wind Energy Center in the US (Califormia) - 1.5 gigawatts,
- Muppandal Wind Farm in India (Kanyakumari region) - 1.5 gigawatts.
- Copper winding wire in a wind power plant
Copper in wind power plant
The technologies used in wind farms use copper on a large scale. This is primarily due to its impressive resistance to the demanding external environment. Copper in a wind power plant can be found in, among other things:
- generator windings - copper in wind turbines resides in the heart of the entire system, the generator located in the nacelle. This device generates electricity, but first it must be powered by a shaft with blades driven by the wind. Further on, the generator connects to a switchgear, cables and a transformer that boosts the voltage. The copper winding wire is covered with a layer of enamel to isolate the coils from each other;
- cables and wires - renewable energy sources allow copper to be used several times more than traditional power generation, precisely because of copper wires and cables;
- transformers - these are usually located at the base of the tower, and their role is to power wind turbines. Copper in the transformer is contained in the magnet wire, feeder cables from the nacelle to the tower base and connectors and their terminations.
- In addition, for wind power, copper is used in grounding systems, lightning protection systems, inverters or control systems.
Copper in wind turbines. Why is copper used in wind turbines?
What makes this metal, which has been used since the beginning of mankind, also find application in such a modern and demanding industrial sector? First of all, copper provides electrical conductivity without causing overheating even at high levels.
It is also resistant to corrosion, thus meeting the requirements of harsh environments - we are talking, for example, about offshore wind farms. For comparison - offshore wind farms use more than 2.5 times more copper than their onshore counterparts. Another advantage - from copper we can easily form any complicated shapes, which are parts of converters or inverters, because it is a lightweight and malleable metal.
Poland is one of the most important copper producers in the world. Experts emphasize the potential of the Polish part of the Baltic Sea in the construction of wind farms, and the European Copper Institute has estimated that Polish spending on the development of wind power plants by 2040 should far exceed PLN 140 billion.
Copper in wind farms is essential, and Polish companies producing copper components, such as Electris, play an important role in the development and operation of renewable energy sources.