And while rare earth metals aren’t exactly a common dinner party topic conversation today, they are becoming a focal point for scientists and conservationists alike, particularly as they work together to find more sustainable and economical energy solutions.
Recently, scientists attending the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (the world’s largest scientific society) announced advances in less-expensive solar energy technology made with “earth-abundant” materials.
According to the scientists, the new materials will help advance technology for less-expensive solar energy – specifically for the residential market.
The new photovoltaic technology uses abundant, less-expensive materials like copper and zinc ― earth-abundant materials ― instead of indium, gallium and other “rare earth” elements. These substances are not only scarce, but are supplied largely by foreign countries, with China mining more than 90 percent of the rare earths needed for batteries in hybrid cars, magnets, electronics and other high-tech products.
As part of the study, scientists shared data to support the idea that materials like zinc phosphide and copper oxide should be capable of producing electricity at a cost similar to coal within 20 years.
One year ago, we explored rare earth metals. We also looked at innovative “rooftop” solar options for the industrial segment. But we’ve never seen the two come together quite like this to benefit the residential market. Until now.
This new technology could make “PV shingles” more affordable and applicable for homeowners. And with enough sunlight falling on home roofs to supply at least half of America’s electricity, this is a huge step.
These developments underscore the need to continue supporting renewable energy initiatives. As more and more people utilize these programs – like the newly launched Solar Rewards® Community™ in Colorado – the path to a cleaner, sustainable and economical energy future will become easier to navigate.