The production of silicon products uses electricity in order to heat up the smelting furnaces. The furnaces reach up to 2000°C and use on average 11-13 MWh per 1mt of silicon in the process, depending on the desired product and quantity. In turn, energy is needed to produce this electricity. Elkem is committed to using renewable energy sources in order to reduce our carbon footprint. Therefore, hydropower is valued as an alternative way to produce electricy, causing less environmental damage than more traditional ways such as coal power plants.
Hydropower vs fossil fuel
The traditional approach to producing electricty is usually by burning fossil carbon, releasing a large amount of deposited carbon back into the atmosphere as CO₂. While other companies might use coal power plants to produce electricity, Elkem uses electricity from hydropower plants. Using hydropower is a renewable way to create electricity using the natural flow of water, which is emission free. Not only is this energy source clean, but it is also locally accessible. Hydropower is known to be the most efficient electricity generator, turning 90% of the energy into power, compared to other fossil fuel plants that only convert 60%.
The beginning of hydropower use by Elkem
Elkem was founded to create value from hydropower in Norway. Norway is the world's leader in share of electricity from renewable energy sources, with the least CO₂ emissions from the power sector. In 2020, the country hit a new record in electricity production, as a result of better wind power capacity and proper access to water in reservoirs. Elkem has since taken multiple actions in Norway in order to ensure our carbon footprint. As an example, the organisation signed a partnership in 2020 with fossil-free electricity producer Vattenfall, who owns over 100 hydropower plants.
The expansion of Elkem's hydropower plants around the world
We have since expanded to other hydropower producers, including Canada, Iceland, Malaysia & Paraguay. For example, Elkem Silicon products’ furnace in Paraguay runs solely on hydroelectric power from the Itaipu powerplant (on top of using biocarbon as a sole reductant), making its operations' CO₂ emission close to neutral. The Itaipu Dam is located on the Paranà River and its hydroelectric power plant created the second most electricity globally in 2020.
The Itaipu dam, Paraguay