The Inflation Reduction Act provides $369 billion in investments to ramp up renewable energy generation and manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, energy storage, and electric vehicles.
Every megawatt of solar power deployed requires 35 to 45 tons of steel. Every megawatt of wind power uses 120 to 180 tons of steel. Estimates are that it will take 1.7 billion tons of steel just to build all the wind turbines needed to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
This is a big problem because steel production accounts for roughly 10% of global carbon emissions and is one of the most carbon-intensive industries in the world.
Making steel is a complex and age-old process that hasn’t changed much over time. Green steel is steel made with little or no carbon emissions. There are a few ways to do it. One is called the direct reduced iron method that uses green hydrogen instead of fossil fuel gas to produce iron and then a renewable-powered electric arc furnace to make the steel.
Molten Oxide Electrolysis is an alternative green steel approach that doesn’t depend on having a green hydrogen infrastructure. It uses electrolysis, powered by renewable energy, to separate the bonds of iron ore and produce liquid metal while releasing only oxygen in the process.
Green steel solutions rely on the availability of renewable energy, but the ultimate success of renewable energy will depend on the success of green steel. The U.S. steel industry will leverage about $6 billion under the Inflation Reduction Act to make progress on it.
Building tomorrow’s clean energy systems on green steel
Photo, posted October 30, 2008, courtesy of Paul Bica via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio