The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference has ended. The politicians seem to have come away happy. Commentators and analysts, on the other hand, are generally less happy – worried that the promises of change will remain just promises.
I wrote in an earlier post about how the recent China energy shortage illustrated the hard choices humanity has to make between continued economic growth and saving the planet. And I wonder whether policymakers and people generally are prepared to sacrifice growth for the planet.
Thankfully, many people and companies are working on potential solutions that might be able to reconcile the need for relentless economic growth and the urgent need to stop climate change. Among these solutions, there are solutions where gold is playing an integral role. It is rare that you can invest in a financial product that can help fight climate change. Gold is one of them.
Since the 1960’s, gold has been used as a thin coating on glazing to improve energy efficiency in buildings. The metal’s excellent infrared shielding capability helps to prevent overheating in tall buildings that have a large glazing footprint by lowering energy costs. One of the more famous ones is the Royal Bank Plaza building in Toronto with 14,000 windows. Every window is coated in a layer of pure gold for this very reason.
This link between solar applications and gold has grown in recent years – expanding into nanotechnology. Nanotechnology has enabled gold to be incorporated into a variety of solar cells to harvest more of the sun’s energy and to convert it into electricity.
One Australian company has developed the technology to store solar energy directly as chemical energy in the form of methane and methanol – a potential alternative to battery energy. Imagine a world where tall buildings use solar technology that can not only prevent overheating but also capture and convert the energy of the sun into electricity for the buildings to use! In the US, the military is exploring the process for mobile generators to allow soldiers in the field to store energy. Imagine again the ability to harness the power of the sun to provide electricity for people who live in remote parts of the country.
The solar industry could potentially mirror the electronics industry which already uses gold extensively when it comes to gold demand and usage. It is possible that solar technology using gold, either in nanoparticle or coating form, could go on to achieve mass-adoption. Although the amount of gold used may be individually small, the deployment of vast numbers of separate solar modules would lead to a significant increase in the demand for gold.
Gold is amazing – and potentially in the not too distant future, it might even be able to help to save our planet from climate change.
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