Headlines throughout the world reveal that a global energy transition is underway. Oil and gas and electricity companies are announcing massive investments and strategic moves that embrace renewable energy.

Renewable energy, which includes solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and others, is at the center of the transition to a less carbon-intensive society, which also puts steel at the center of the conversation.

“Steel is required by each of these markets. Without steel, none of the renewable energy sources would be possible. Every renewable energy structure – a wind turbine, a solar panel - requires steel.”

- Johannes De Schrijver, CEO, ArcelorMittal Projects.

According to the International Energy Agency, renewable power capacity is set to expand by 50% between 2019 and 2024. This increase of 1,200 GW is equivalent to the current total power capacity of the United States. Solar is expected to account for nearly 60% of the anticipated growth and onshore wind 25%.

Steel will play an important role in all renewables, including and especially solar and wind. Each new MW of solar power requires between 35 to 45 tons of steel, and each new MW of wind power requires *120 to 180 tons of steel. *Applies only to  steel in offshore wind foundations.

The solar market is divided into two areas. The first are smaller-scale rooftop panels mounted on homes, museums and stadiums. The second is utility-scale projects, which are larger consumers of steel. These plants produce a standard 100 to 300 MW of energy while some in development are approaching 1000 MW.

“These are basically small power plants, football fields full of solar panels. If you consider that each new MW requires 35 to 45 tons of steel, that’s a tremendous opportunity for us. This is an area that has our attention.”

        

Solar power plants use three technologies, all of which use steel in the structure on which the PV modules or mirrors are attached:

  • Solar Photovoltaic (PV) – panels are mounted on a fixed or moving structure that allows the panel to be optimally oriented to the sun throughout the day; the moving structure is gaining ground on the fixed with tracker technology accounting for half of all PV structures by 2025
  • Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) - panels with lenses that focus the sun’s ray on a small cell with a much higher energy generation capacity
  • Concentrator Photovoltaics (CPV) - converts sunlight to electricity by PV cells made of semiconductor materials; usually the material is salt, which becomes liquid and generates steam to create electricity

ArcelorMittal has been a key player in supplying steel to major solar projects around the world including the Beryl Solar Farm in Australia and Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai as well as solar farms in Chile, Egypt, France, Israel and the United States. The company is also finalising agreements with power-generating companies on solar plants using CSP or CPV technologies. One is the first of its kind combines both Solar PV and CSP for a revolutionary capacity of 950 MW of energy.

Steel is also a major contributor to wind energy, which can be grouped into three key markets:

  • Onshore wind farms - relatively small and produce between 2 and 3 MW of power per turbine. A variety of steels is used for the structural tower itself, the house of the turbine, the turbine blades and electrical steel.
  • Offshore wind farms - much larger, with recent turbines producing 5 to 8 MW of energy. Offshore wind consumes more steel than onshore and is an area of interest among investors. Offshore has two advantages: the ability to go much higher with no obstructions and the free flow of wind. Offshore requires a combination of steels to support the huge foundations that are anchored to the sea bed. Steel is also found in the structural tower itself and the blades, which are much thicker and longer.
  • New generation wind farms – these wind farms go the distance, literally! These farms will be built even further from shore, requiring a floating structure. Each turbine will produce 7 to 12 MW of energy.

 

ArcelorMittal has been a supplier of steel to some of the world’s largest windfarms, including:

  • BorWin3, a 900 MW offshore wind grid connection in the German North Sea.
  • East Anglia One, a 714 MW wind farm in the North Sea off the coast of England.
  • Greater Changhua, 2.4 GW wind farm in the Taiwan Strait.

 

ArcelorMittal Global R&D plays an important role in supporting this market through the development of new steel products and solutions:

  • Magnelis®, a breakthrough corrosion resistant steel product, has enjoyed much success in the solar energy market. Magnelis® is the industry’s reference product for ground mounted structures and the product of choice in harsh outdoor and indoor environments.
  • A-motion, is a new steel solution for solar panels created by ArcelorMittal. A-Motion is a single-row, self-powered and wireless solar tracker which features a wind-friendly design dimensioned to be safe in any position with no stow position required. With a limited number of components, a global supply chain with possibilities of local content and reduced O&M, the product answers the market’s needs.
Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, Dubai
East Anglia One wind farm, North Sea

“The future of steel in the energy transition is exciting,” said De Schrijver. “As the world’s largest steel producer with extensive downstream capabilities and fabrication and construction knowledge, we are in an excellent position to provide safe, sustainable steel for the future of energy.”