What Is the Connection Between Precious Metals and Sustainable Energy?
Many of us have heard about sustainable energy, from solar energy to hydrogen fuel to renewable resources. But did you know that alternative energy sources and precious metals are deeply intertwined? In fact, the demand for renewable energy sources plays a prominent role in the demand for precious metals.
So, what does gold have to do with solar power? How does silver drive the electric vehicle industry? What does platinum have to do with hydrogen fuel cells? In this article, I’ll explain the many ways that gold, silver, platinum, and palladium are playing an important role in green energy research.
Gold, Silver, and Sustainable Energy
Gold and silver have been used for millennia in nearly every culture in the world. Besides their most common uses — such as jewelry or medical devices — gold and silver also have enjoyed a variety of “magical” applications throughout history, particularly for ancient and medieval alchemy.
Although spinning gold into something else might seem like the stuff of fairy tales, researchers have been able to use gold as a catalyst to turn solar energy into methane and methanol. Well-known for its high conductivity, silver, too, has emerged as a key ingredient in the development of solar technologies. When used in the form of a paste in solar cells, silver helps conduct electrons from sunlight and the resulting electrical energy that can be used immediately or stored in batteries.
Additionally, silver plays a vital role in the electric vehicle (EV) industry, which is growing rapidly. According to McKinsey, 143 new EVs were launched in 2019 and automakers plan on launching 450 additional models by 2022. From the electric engine to the battery pack to the batter management system, silver is necessary for EVs to operate. Gold, too, is used for the circuit boards of EVs.
A global authority on precious metals, the London Bullion Market Association predicts that the demand for silver in the auto industry will increase 246% by 2040 — from a little more than 1,300 metric tons in 2015 to more than 4,500 metric tons in 2040. Although the amount of silver and gold may be small from car to car, the aggregate total is notable and will only expand the importance and value of these precious metals.
Platinum, Palladium, and Renewable Energy
Discovered in 1735, platinum is known for its brilliant shine and durability and is used in everything from dental tools to jewelry.
Platinum’s cousin palladium isn’t known as widely for its white luster as it is for its use in the automotive industry where it’s used to turn toxic pollutants into water vapor and less-harmful carbon dioxide. In recent years, the demand for palladium has grown thanks to research into its applications in alternative energy. In fact, although palladium isn’t used in electric car production, the demand for palladium in hybrid cars is on the rise.
Groundbreaking uses for both of these metals are emerging as scientists investigate how to shift from a fossil fuel-based economy to a hydrogen-based economy. Both metals are excellent candidates for use as catalysts in hydrogen fuel cells, because of their excellent conductivity. Platinum and palladium make it possible to turn hydrogen into an efficient, powerful, and sustainable fuel source. This potential makes platinum and palladium the standouts among the precious metals for green technologies.
Driven by Precious Metals, the Future Is Green
Although we can’t be sure what the future holds, all signs point toward more industries “going green” at a rapid clip. As interest in sustainability grows, innovative uses for precious metals will only drive demand. If you’re interested in learning more about precious metals, including gold and silver, visit RoslandCapital.com.