Can the replacement of silver in solar cells make them cheaper?
Estimated data suggests that silver amounting to nearly 2.8 million ounces (per Gigawatts of solar panels) is used in the production of Solar panel.
The use of silver in the production of the solar cells results in high cost of production. This makes one think that if it were possible to produce solar cells without the use of silver by how much can we expect the cost to go down.
Silver has the highest thermal and electrical conductivity among all metals. Also it is one of the most reflective metals. These properties make it a precious raw material in most industries. And the solar cell production is a leading consumer of silver.
Demand for Silver from the Solar Panel Industry
In the recent years, there has been considerable reduction in the price of the solar cells primarily due to the increase in the efficiency of their production. This has enabled the solar cells to become more affordable to the customers.
But silver still accounts for a huge portion of the total cost of the solar cells. It would be a great break through for the solar cells production industry if it is possible to completely eliminate the costly silver. It has the potential to make the solar cells a lot cheaper than what it is at present, making it readily purchasable for a wide range of consumers.
There indeed has been recent development in the endeavor to replace the costly metal with substance having similar properties yet being much cost effective. Major researchers have made the claim that their latest laser processing technology has the potential to completely eliminate the use of silver in solar cells.
Cost Reduction due to use of Silver
Although the numbers regarding the estimate of cost reduction is as yet undefined but it can easily be predicted to be quite a large amount. According to experts, the cost of silver comprises 30 percent of the price of solar cells. Being able to cut down on the above percentage would surely be a major revolution.
At this point in time all the details regarding the technology are not available. Dr. David Levy, director of research and technology, have made a decent attempt to keep it all very simple without giving away too much about the technology.
“With our patent submission yet to be completed, we are not comfortable about giving away details about the proposed structure. All the tests conducted by us suggest we are on the right path toward achieving very high efficiencies with manufacturing solutions that do not require complex process equipment and also low cost,” Dr. Levy said.
So it obviously gives rise to the question that how much reduction in the price of the solar cells can the elimination of silver bring about? The founder of SolarQuotes, Finn Peacock predicts a 10 percent decrease in the solar panel cost. We have to wait and see. But one thing we can say for sure that the future prospects of the use of silver in solar cells looks bleak.