Wood Mackenzie predicts China will be the strongest driver of new wind power capacity additions over the next decade, requiring an average of 110,000 tonnes of copper a year

Resolution Copper Mine (RCM)

Workers at Rio Tinto's Resolution Copper project in Arizona, US - one of the world's largest (Credit: Rio Tinto)

The planned introduction of nearly 800 gigawatts (GW) of global wind power capacity over the next decade will require more than 5.5 million tonnes of copper, according to energy market analyst Wood Mackenzie.

The Scottish firm’s analysis suggests a total of 650GW offshore and 130GW onshore wind capacity will have been introduced in the ten years between 2018 and 2028.

Roughly 58% of the copper used in wind power installation is for cabling, with the rest used for constructing generators, power transformers and gearboxes.

“Wind technology is the most copper-intensive form of power generation and is anticipated to consume the largest amount of copper over the next ten years in this sector,” said Wood Mackenzie’s research analyst Henry Salisbury.

“Governments have set out to transition from a dependency on carbon emission-intensive power to more renewable energy sources and wind and solar energy sources have become a popular technology choice.

“In order to generate, transmit and distribute the energy, copper is required due to its low electrical resistivity, high conductivity, malleability and durability.

“As a result of the intensity of copper within wind farm projects and the increasing demand for wind energy, consumption of copper is substantial and forecast to grow significantly over the next decade.”

“Considering our current forecasts for new wind turbine installations between 2018 and 2028, over 3Mt of copper will be consumed in both collector and distribution cabling.”


Global wind power capacity additions to drive copper demand

Wood Mackenzie predicts China will be the strongest driver of new wind power capacity additions over the next decade, requiring an average of 110,000 tonnes of copper a year, while the US will need roughly 35,000 tonnes annually to facilitate its expansion plans.

Europe will provide another key market, with the UK, Netherlands and Germany leading planned offshore wind installation among the bloc, which is forecast to require an average of 80,000 tonnes of the commodity each year through to 2028.

Salisbury added: “Due to higher copper intensity, offshore turbines will command an increasing share of copper consumption.

“The progressive development of larger wind turbines will increase copper intensities, providing an upside risk to copper consumption in the longer-term beyond 2024.”

The increasing global demand for electric vehicles and their accompanying charging stations, which could be up to 250% higher in 2030 than in 2019, will also create huge demand for copper over the coming years, according to Wood Mackenzie.

The analyst predicts that over the next decade 20 million additional charging points will be introduced around the world, with other metals key to the construction of batteries such as cobalt and nickel also set for rising demand.

Many of these will be implemented in North America, specifically, where Wood Mackenzie anticipates the electric vehicle infrastructure market to reach $18.6bn over the coming decade.

Salisbury said: “By 2040, we predict that passenger electric vehicles will consume more than 3.7 million tonnes of copper every year.

“In comparison, passenger internal combustion engine vehicles will need just over 1 million tonnes.

“If we look at cumulative demand between now and 2040, passenger electric vehicles will consume 35.4 million tonnes of copper – around 5 million tonnes more than is required to meet current passenger internal combustion engine demand.”