PV industry silver demand to fall slightly

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Silver demand in the solar industry will fall slightly this year but remain near recent record high levels, according to industry body the Silver Institute’s 2020 outlook.

Demand for the precious metal across all industries is expected to rise 3% thanks to the electrical and electronics sectors, as well as the automotive market. “Silver use in 5G-infrastructure and upcoming intelligent electronics is also likely to fuel demand gains,” analysts at the trade body wrote.

The U.S.-based industry association said silver consumption is being reduced by solar manufacturers through technological advances which require less use of the precious metal for conductive silver paste on the front and rear of most PV cells.

The analysts said the general outlook for the PV sector in 2020 appeared mixed but “ongoing government support for renewables to counter climate change and falling prices for finished PV modules should boost global PV installations”.

It’s all good

The institute added, the global outlook for silver remains positive as the commodity’s annual average price is expected to rise 13% to a six-year high of $18.40 this year.

More details are due to be published in the World Silver Survey 2020, expected in April.

Research published by the University of Kent’s business school in April sought to show a direct correlation between rising silver costs and increased solar module production. The study found silver prices rose significantly after 2011, when renewables received a boost thanks to concerns about high oil prices. The Kent researchers said a further increase in silver prices might drive higher module prices.

In a report published in June 2018, the Silver Institute highlighted how the amount of silver needed by the PV industry could fall from 130mg per cell in 2016 to approximately 65mg by 2028.