Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Solar power challenges

The transition to a low-carbon energy system requires a huge range of materials for the technologies needed. Now a study highlights how large the demand for aluminium could be with rapid photovoltaic adoption, which could have a massive carbon footprint if action is not taken in the sector.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Solar PV panels.

dowell / Getty Images


  1. Hund, K., La Porta, D., Fabregas, T. P., Laing, T. & Drexhage, J. Minerals for Climate Action: The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition (World Bank, 2020).

  2. The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions (IEA, 2021);

  3. Lennon, A., Lunardi, M., Hallam, B. & Dias, P. R. Nat. Sustain. (2022).

  4. Ziemann, S., Müller, D. B., Schebek, L. & Weil, M. Resour. Conserv. Recycl. 133, 76–85 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Alves Dias, P., Blagoeva, D., Pavel, C. & Arvanitidis, N. Cobalt: Demand-Supply Balances in the Transition to Electric Mobility EUR 29381 EN (Publications Office of the European Union, 2018).

  6. Moss, R. L., Tzimas, E., Kara, H., Willis, P. & Kooroshy, J. Energy Policy 55, 556–564 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Tokimatsu, K. et al. Appl. Energy 225, 1158–1175 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Heffron, R. J. Extr. Ind. Soc. 7, 855–863 (2020).

    Google Scholar 

  9. Kalantzakos, S. Int. Spect. 55, 1–16 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Timothy Laing.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The author declares no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Laing, T. Solar power challenges. Nat Sustain 5, 285–286 (2022).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing