Researchers from Kent Business School published a paper this week in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research where they state that increased demand for solar panels causes silver prices to spike.
The researchers say that if silver prices go way too high, other materials such as copper and aluminum may start to be used in the development of solar panels.
After analyzing a series of datasets from the London Bullion Market, installed solar energy capacity and solar gross electricity production between 1990 and 2016, the academics noticed that silver prices have risen at the same time there has been a spike in demand for solar panels. Examples of such situations are the years following the 2008 global recession when silver price rose to $18.99/ounce, and shortly after 2011, when there was worldwide concern oil prices were becoming too high and silver prices climbed to $48.03/ounce.
In a university press release, researchers Iraklis Apergis and Nicholas Apergis said that the overall manufacturing and commercialization of solar panels could turn quite expensive if silver prices continue to rise. "This could require intervention from governments such as with energy credits or sales tax waivers to make them more cost-effective to encourage a transition to more renewable energy resources."
Given that it has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of all metals, commercial solar panels incorporate about 20g of silver per unit. According to the experts at Kent, this means that the metal is responsible for around 6.1% of the total cost of building each panel.
In the past year, the price of silver has fluctuated between highs of $17.29/ounce and lows of 14.07/ounce. The precious metal currently sits at $15.04/ounce.
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