Aluminium; pros and cons and why EU want to make it circular by 2030

May 13, 2020

Aluminium is perhaps one of the most versatile metals due to its non-ferrous properties, low electrical resistance and strength-to weight ratio. All these characteristics are reasons why Mounting Systems primarily uses aluminium for its racking systems.

95% of energy savings with recycling

There is no shortage of aluminium in the world as 8% of earths surface contains aluminium. Making it one of the most available raw materials (after silicon and oxygen). The downside is that in those 8% almost all the aluminium is found in a mix amongst 270 different minerals. Extraction of aluminium is highly resource intensive. Enormous amounts of energy are needed to produce pure aluminium. In 2010 it was estimated that 3% of the world’s electricity was used in the production of aluminium.

Luckily, there has been a lot of research in the recycling of aluminium. Up to 95% of the energy needed to produce primary aluminium can be saved with recycling, according to Frauenhofer institute.

Raw material demand is increasing rapidly

The production of solar energy requires a lot of raw materials. Many of those will (due to increase of pv-module demand) create shortage for some materials such as germanium, tellurium, gallium, indium, selenium, silicon and glass. Not only materials used in the production of photovoltaics will experience an increase in demand. Structural components will experience a rise of 8 times in 2030 and 30 times in 2050 under a high demand scenario compared to what was needed in 2018.

EU has set a goal to have 100% circularity of aluminium by 2030

To address the challenge of increasing raw material demand, the aluminium industry has set an ambitious goal to achieve. To become 100% circular within the next 10 years. This means that all aluminium that has reached its end of lifetime, find its way back into the supply chain, to be brought for another use. Today between 75% to 90% of aluminium is recycled, meeting the target will thus result in a reduction of imported aluminium sold in Europe, where 50% of all our aluminium can be supplied by post-consumer recycling. If the goal of 100% circularity will be reached, Mounting Systems products will as a result, have a 46% reduced carbon footprint by 2050.

Mounting Systems role in making the solar industry cleaner

30 minutes outside Berlin, in Rangdsdorf, the production of solar racking systems takes place. 6m bars of aluminium are supplied, which will be stamped and cut to produce roof hooks, module clamps and rails. Aluminium that doesn’t end up in the final product will be melted and reused. Most of Mounting Systems products are pure aluminium, not mixed with f.ex plastic, allowing the material to be fully recyclable without causing degradation of the material. Besides our focus on reducing aluminium losses, we also work on reducing carbon footprint in our facilities. The facilities are equipped with LED lights, photovoltaics on the roof and nearly all packaging (95%) [plastic and paper] is collected and sold back into the loop. Additionally, we have a dishwasher for our materials to remove aluminium shavings. The high temperature from the machine, heats the water in the building, giving the excess energy a second purpose.

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