How much will eliminating silver in solar cells drive costs down?

silver bars and solar panels

Solar panel manufacturing uses about 2.8 million ounces of silver for every GW of solar panels manufactured. New technology hopes to reduce this to zero.

Ever considered how much the amount of silver in solar cells adds to their cost? What if silver were eliminated completely from the production of solar panels?

The price of solar cells has already reduced considerably in recent years due to improved production efficiencies, making solar cells affordable for many. However the elimination of the high cost silver from the production would realise a long term dream of producers and make solar energy even more cheaper than it has already become.

For researchers at the Rochester R&D Center of Natcore Technology Inc have claimed that their latest proprietary laser processing technology may eliminate the need for silver in solar cells. The potential cost reduction estimates are — of course — huge, if as yet undefined.

This is obviously a major development. An estimated 30 percent of the cost of solar cells coming from the price of silver, according to a Natcore Technology press release earlier this month. However with the patent submission still to be completed, details of the technology are limited. Indeed Natcore’s director of research and technology, Dr. David Levy played a very straight bat.

“While we’re completing our patent submission, we’re hesitant to give more details about the new structure. All of our tests to date demonstrate that we’re on the optimum path toward very high efficiencies with manufacturing solutions that are low cost and do not require complex process equipment,” he said.

Yet it’s clear the new technology, which is based on improvements in the silicon heterojunction (SHJ) cell structure, is a major breakthrough which will bring major price reductions. Eliminating silver in solar cells will go a long way to halving their cost, one of the stated key goals of Natcore Technology.

So how much will the price of solar panels go down without silver in solar cells? Finn Peacock, founder of SolarQuotes estimates the complete solar panel cost may fall by as much as 10 percent (based on a silver usage of 2.8 million ounces per Gigawatt of solar capacity). Do you agree with this estimation? Too high or too low? Either way the future of silver in solar cells looks limited.

Comments

  1. ramjetski says

    Is the silver used in current solar panels able to be reclaimed when the panels have reached the end of their service life?

  2. Silver price is grossly manipulated and panels would otherwise be much more expensive. If this new innovation has the same electrical characteristics as Silver then it may make a difference but more likely the company just needs money and so has put this info out to bring in some investor dollars

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