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You can’t have solar without silver

With a history that dates back more than 5,000 years, silver has been an incredibly valuable metal through the ages. It was once used as a trading currency along the Asian spice routes and was even the standard for U.S. currency for a while. However, the precious metal holds far more value than just as a currency. In fact, more than half of the world’s silver is actually used for industrial purposes as it is used in X-rays, low-e windows, and even solar panels. As it turns out, even solar energy wouldn’t work the same way if it wasn’t for silver.

The average solar panel actually uses about two-thirds of an ounce of silver, which is about 20 grams. That might not sound like a lot, but at around $20 an ounce it contributes more to the cost of solar than it does to the other industrial products that use silver. For example, a laptop only contains 750 milligrams to 1.25 grams of silver while a cell phone contains just 200-300 milligrams of silver, so silver is a tiny fraction of the cost of those devices.

Overall, the solar industry uses about 5% of the world’s annual silver supply, or an estimated 52.4 million ounces. However, as demand for solar increases, especially in China, the demand for silver used in solar could double. Because of this it is estimated that by next year the solar industry will use 100 million ounces of silver.

Because of the volatility in the price of solar, panel makers are working on using less of it on each panel. Still, the overall increase in demand for new solar panels is what’s driving the demand silver used by the solar industry. This increased demand for silver could have a real impact on the solar marketplace in the years to come as solar could push up the price of silver. So, should silver prices surge it could have an impact on the production costs of solar panels, which would then impact the economics of the solar industry.

Source USA Today

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