As you may know, silver is used in photovoltaic (PV) technology to
generate solar power. A typical solar panel uses a fair amount of the
metal – roughly two-thirds of an ounce (20 grams). To put that in
perspective, a cellphone contains around 200 to 300 milligrams (a
milligram weighs about as much as a grain of sand). A laptop contains
750 milligrams to 1.25 grams.
Photovoltaic technology is
relatively young, but each year its use is growing rapidly. Just since
2000, the amount of silver consumed by solar-panel makers has risen an
average of 50% per year. Demand grew from one million ounces in 2002 to
60 million ounces in 2011. Last year demand from the PV industry
represented almost 11% of total industrial demand for the metal
(excluding jewelry). According to statistics from CPM Group, demand grew
by 11.2 million ounces, the strongest volume growth of all major
sources (jewelry and electronics). And this was before the Japanese
announcement was made.
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