Renewables is the magic word in carbon-free primary energy production: electricity from sources that are naturally replenished.
Our growing hunger for energy must not further increase CO2 emissions. That is why renewable sources of electricity generation are becoming larger contributor to the energy supply. Electricity from wind, hydropower, and sunlight is a rapidly growing reality – and in the end, it is closely linked to modern steel production.
A quarter that counts
Responsibility for our environment and the finite nature of fossil resources (oil, gas, coal) are key drivers for the fast growth of renewable energies which, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), account for almost a quarter of the world’s electricity generation. Hydropower plants account for the majority of this, 68%; solar, wind, geothermal and tidal power plants supply another 23% worldwide. Renewables are in second place in the ranking of energy sources worldwide and already represent almost 100% (Austria: 70%) of electricity generation in countries such as Norway. However, this rapid growth also poses a number of challenges. In addition to supply reliability (dependence on time of day and weather), it is also important to clarify issues such as transport (routes, offshore connections), land use (wind and solar parks, hydropower plants), and energy storage. Because ultimately, the long-term use of “green” hydrogen as an energy source and storage medium for industry, mobility, and other sectors depends on the infrastructure.
Steel and renewables
The forecast is that by 2030, the EU will require 80 million tons of steel for renewable energy; an average of 140 tons of steel is needed for a wind turbine alone. Sustainable energy solutions therefore cannot do without innovative steel solutions:
- The shafts of offshore wind turbines must be able to withstand the high loads caused by strong winds, tides, and salt water; gears and generators must withstand the demands of continuous operation.
- Hydropower turbines need to be low maintenance and operate reliably for a long time—from the inlet and the turbine design to the pressure pipes. Highest-strength stainless steels are used for these pipes and their reliable welded joints.
- Substructures for photovoltaic solutions have to withstand the climatic conditions in deserts and on coasts and be easy to install.
- Generators in wind and hydropower plants require electrical steel strip. There is great potential for voestalpine in these segments.
The Group currently generates around 1% of its revenue with renewable energies.
In 2017, renewable energies accounted for more than two-thirds of global investments in electricity generation. Renewables’ share of the world’s energy supply is rising steadily. Steel solutions will contribute to mastering the associated challenges—for example in the transport and storage of carbon-free hydrogen as a “storage medium” for electrical energy.