They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and when it comes to solar power, they’re right. The great state of Texas has installed enough solar panels in the last three months to power 44,000 homes. Jeff Mosier’s article in the Dallas News inspired us to share some research about the importance of silver within the solar energy industry.
Silver is the most reflective of all precious metals, amplifying the reflection of sunlight and increasing the amount of energy collected. Additionally, it has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of all metals, making it an ideal material for harnessing solar energy. Solar panels would not work without precious metal. Each solar panel uses two-thirds of an ounce of silver to convert sunlight into energy. Due to the amount of silver needed in each panel, its cost contribution to solar panels likely outweighs this precious metal’s proportional cost for any of its other applications – including jewelry and silverware. The most common solar cells, also known as photovoltaic (PV) cells, use a silver paste as a conductor to collect the electrons generated by sunlight hitting the panel. The collected electrons form an electric current, transported out of the cell by the silver and used as electricity.
The solar industry uses 5 to 8 percent of the world’s annual silver supply and will increase its need for silver as the energy’s popularity increases. Half a million solar panels a day were installed in 2015, and global energy generated by solar and wind is expected to double by 2020, according to Reuters. The demand prompted solar companies to start developing cells relying on less silver, to depend less on fluctuating metals values and make the panels more affordable for businesses and homeowners to install. Covering the globe with solar panels using the old cells would require more silver than could be supplied by production, therefore the reduced amount of silver in new PV cells also makes a globally sustainable future in energy more obtainable.
Perhaps we should install solar panels on precious metal depositories across the country so they are less reliant on the power grid in case of disasters…what do you think?