The Atacama Desert in Chile is 50 times drier than Death Valley with daytime temperatures hovering around 40°C and plummeting to 5°C overnight. The El Romero solar farm which went online in 2017 resides in this blistering environment faithfully delivering its 200+ Megawatts despite the corrosive desert winds and extreme temperatures. One of the key elements that made this possible was the use of steel in these solar installations.
Steel in Solar
International company Arcelor Mittal supplied the ground mounted frames for this, and other, solar farms.
They comment, “Since 2012, we’ve supplied advanced light steel for ground-mounted frames for solar farms. Our flagship product, Magnelis®, has a composite coating (zinc, aluminium and magnesium) that makes it self-healing and extremely durable – even in the most hostile of environments, such as the El Romero solar farm in the Atacama desert, one of the driest places on earth.”
They are not the only company who are making use of steel in solar, with many switching from aluminium to steel for a number of reasons.
- Solar installations are built to attract heat, which makes the steel a product of choice as it can withstand the intense heat it will be subjected to.
- Galvanised steel is shipped as is, which means reduced transport costs for solar companies which would have to pay additional costs for coating or additional processing of aluminium.
- While aluminium is a lightweight product, steel can support the same loads with less material usage making it a cheaper option.
- Steel is 100% recyclable which makes it a “green” choice. More structures are looking to adhere to the LEED and other environmental requirements, and steel would certainly add points to their efforts.
We are all looking for more sustainable ways of producing renewable energy. Making use of steel in solar installations – both smaller residential applications as well as within giant solar farms – we are closing the loop and creating a greener future for all.