Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.Gold Price Target of USD 2,300 - GoldCore
2.Greece Banking System Collapse Monday as ECB Pulls the Plug, Capital Controls Ahead of GrExit - Nadeem_Walayat
3.Why British Muslims Are Leaving Elysium Paradise for Syrian Hell - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Greece BANKRUPT! Financial and Economic Collapse to Follow IMF Debt Default - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Extreme Gold/Silver Shorting - Zeal_LLC
6.European Empire Strikes Back Against Greek Debt Fantasy, Counting Down to GREXIT - Nadeem_Walayat
7.Gold And Silver – Three Choices: Sell, Hold, Hold and Add. A Trading Treatise - Michael_Noonan
8.Gold and Silver Price Headed for Breakdown - Jordan_Roy_Byrne
9.Greece Crisis OXI - Raul_I_Meijer
10.Flatline Investing and Dead End Debt Schemes - Doug_Wakefield
Last 5 days
The U.S. Dollar's 2014-2015 Rally: Wave 3 in Action - 3rd July 15
Stock Market Where are we? And where are we Going? - 3rd July 15
Xi’s Anti-Corruption Campaign Is Key to China’s Prospects - 3rd July 15
How the New Iranian Nuclear Deal Will Impact Crude Oil - 3rd July 15
China's Stock Market Rollercoaster Ride Continues - 3rd July 15
Gold Stocks Cheap to Buy but Not for Long - 3rd July 15
Capital Controls and a Bank Holiday in Greece… Here’s How You Can Profit - 3rd July 15
Greece's Varoufakis: I will Resign if there's a 'Yes' Vote - 2nd July 15
The Student Loan Bubble: Gambling with America’s Future - 2nd July 15
Inflation Is Lurking, but This Asset Can Protect You - 2nd July 15
Three Total Wealth Stock Investor Tactics You’ll Need Because Greece Isn’t Over - 2nd July 15
Why This $5.6 Trillion Investor Profit Boom Is Set To Take Off - 2nd July 15
Greek Debt Crisis: "Too late to prepare now" - Video - 2nd July 15
Guaranteed US Dollar Death Dynamics - 2nd July 15
The Greek Stress Test & The Reality Of Incremental Changes - 2nd July 15
Forget Drachmas Greece Syriza Government Could Instruct Central Bank to Print Euros! - 2nd July 15
Greece Debt Crisis Trigger for Stock Market Crash or Bull Rally? Video - 1st July 15
Gold Stocks Break Below 2008 Low - 1st July 15
SPX Stock Market Retracement May be Over - 1st July 15
Silver Tunnel Vision 'Experts' - 1st July 15
Gold And Silver - Monthly, Quarterly Ending Analysis - 1st July 15
Europe’s Controlled Demolition - 1st July 15
The End of Dow 18,000; Bailouts No Longer Extended  - 1st July 15
Athens Mayor: Greek Government Should Resign - 1st July 15
China Stocks - This Is What a Bubble Looks Like - 30th June 15
Stocks Plunge on Greece Euro-Zone Financial Armageddon Blackmail - 30th June 15
Greece Crisis Shows Importance of Gold as Europeans Buy Coins and Bars - 30th June 15
Stock Investors Express Route to Profits in the Healthcare Sector - 30th June 15
Beyond the Greek Impasse - 30th June 15
Gold GDXJ : Impulse Move Pending - 30th June 15
Fed Interest Rate Increase Could Be Best Thing to Happen to Gold - 30th June 15
Marc Faber - Greece is Basically Bankrupt - 30th June 15
Greece - Shoot the Dog and Sell the Farm - 29th June 15
Grexit?, BIS Warning, Chinese Market Crash & Systemic Risk Shake the Global Economy - 29th June 15
The New "Sharing Economy" May Not Be the Profit Bonanza Everyone's Expecting - 29th June 15
Gold and Silver Greece and Short Positions - 29th June 15
Volatility and Sleep-Walking Markets - 29th June 15
Greece BANKRUPT! Financial and Economic Collapse to Follow IMF Debt Default - 29th June 15
Stock Market More Decline Ahead? - 29th June 15
China Stock Market Crackup - The Final Trap Looms... - 29th June 15
Greece Banking System Collapse Monday as ECB Pulls the Plug, Capital Controls Ahead of GrExit - 28th June 15
Investor Stock Play for Two Growing Missile Threats - 28th June 15
Stock Market Uptrend/downtrend Inflection Point - 27th June 15
Greece Crisis OXI - 27th June 15
Gold And Silver – Three Choices: Sell, Hold, Hold and Add. A Trading Treatise - 27th June 15
It’s Time to Change the Way You Look at Disney Forever - 27th June 15
Flatline Investing and Dead End Debt Schemes - 27th June 15

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

China Stocks - Where are they going?

The Solar Silver Thrust, Soaring Demand from PV Panels

Commodities / Gold and Silver 2012 Oct 05, 2012 - 02:00 PM GMT

By: Jeff_Clark

Commodities

Diamond Rated - Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleJeff Clark, BIG GOLD : In early July, Japan set a premium price for solar energy that was three times the rate of conventional power. This meant utility companies would be paid three times more for electricity sourced from solar. It's widely expected that the premium will ignite the use of solar power – and solar uses a lot of silver.


Silver Demand from PV Panels

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.

The largest end-user of solar panels is Germany, though that's changing. Last year Germany accounted for 27.3% of global installations, but due to subsidy cuts, solar-panel installation capacity dropped from 7.7 gigawatts to 7.5. In the big picture, that decline was offset by increases in China, France, Italy, the UK, Japan, and the US.

In their 2012 Yearbook, CPM projected a slight decline in silver demand from solar panels due to a reduction of new installation in Europe and oversupply from excess production in China. But with the initiative from Japan, that estimate is almost certainly low.

Japan Gives New Life to PV Industry

After the Fukushima disaster, Japanese authorities wanted to cut the nation's dependence on nuclear energy. Approximately 30% of Japan's power was generated by nuclear before the catastrophe; now the focus has shifted to other green energy alternatives, including solar.

The new tariffs might work. The suggested rate of 42 JPY ($0.53) per kilowatt hour (expected to be maintained for 20 years) is more than twice the rate in Germany (€0.17 – or $0.246).Bloomberg estimates that this generous increase will create $9.6 billion investments in Japan alone.

Here's what that amount of money would do to the sector: There were approximately1.3 gigawatts of solar capacity installed in 2011, but experts anticipate that number to nearly double to 2.3-2.5GW for 2012, and hit 3.0GW in 2013. According to SolarBuzz, Japan could see 28GW of solar capacity installed by 2020 and 50GW by 2030.

That's a lot of solar panels, and – even assuming improved efficiency – it'll take a lot of silver.

Price Factors

During recent years, solar panels have become significantly less expensive and more end-user friendly. However, the fact that each panel contains a lot of silver can make it susceptible to large price fluctuations. If the silver price gets too high, manufacturers might seek alternatives, of course, but they can't easily eliminate use of the metal. And if the product gets too expensive, demand could fall. Companies are already looking for ways to reduce the amount of silver used in PV panels or to replace it with another element.

At the moment there are two main solar panel technologies on the market. The traditional one is "thick film," where silver is the main component. The other one is a less-expensive "thin-film" method which replaces silver with another material, cadmium telluride. The development of thin-film solar panels has picked up due to its lower price, but the technology is less effective. Thick film is more efficient in gathering energy from the sun, and this type of panel still prevails on the market. CPM reports that it accounted for roughly 91% of total installations last year, and analysts expect thick-film panels to maintain their dominance for at least the next several years. Further, both panel types use silver outside of the cell for reflectivity and other functions, so the odds of silver being eliminated from solar panels entirely are very low at this time.

For investors, this means that at least in the near term, the solar industry will continue to use silver-intensive technology, thus supporting growing industrial demand for the metal.

But that's not all, folks…

New Era for Silver Usage

For a long time, silver industrial demand was dependent almost entirely on one industry: photography. Silver-based camera film dramatically changed the structure of silver demand at the beginning of the 20th century. By that time, silver had primarily been used in silverware, jewelry, and as money. At its peak, photographic demand accounted for about 50% of the market.

But this is the 21st century, and in spite of substantial declines in film use, the modern world has developed many other important uses from silver's unique properties. Probably the most important shift is that industrial demand for silver no longer comes from a single field, but from numerous applications – almost too many to count – virtually none of which show any signs of slowing. This fact makes the forecast for silver demand more positive and stable; when one industry drops, others may offset the decline.

Here's a smattering of uses, many of which are still in their infancy:

  • Solid-state lighting (SSL), which uses semiconductors to produce light with either light-emitting diodes (LED) or organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), rather than the more traditional electrical filaments. SSL is used in traffic lights and some car headlamps.
  • Radio frequency identification (RFID) uses printed silver ink made from silver nitrate. RFID chips have become so ubiquitous, it's hard to find any new product that doesn't have at least one – even if that's only in the security tag affixed to the package.
  • Supercapacitors and superconductors, autocatalysts and new types of more effective batteries.
  • Medical applications like aseptic coverings for surgery, traumatic wounds, antibacterial bandages and fabrics, dental amalgam, and silver salts that help prevent infections in newborns. It's also used as a cure for dermatological problems and certain types of cancer.
  • Water purification systems, washing machines, air conditioners, and refrigeration. NASA used silver to sterilize recycled water aboard the space shuttle.
  • Food packaging and preservation. Manufacturers of commercial ice machines are using silver-embedded hoses, clamps, pipe fittings, and other places where gunk can build up and harbor bacteria. Meat processors use silver-embedded tables, grinders, tools, and hooks. Silver is used to keep fruit, vegetables, and cut flowers fresh while in transit.
  • Public hygiene, such as antimicrobial protection of telephone receivers, door handles, bed rails, toilet seats, counter tops, children's toys, socks, underwear, bed linen, towels, etc.
  • Other wide-ranging consumer products used every day: makeup, antibacterial soaps and kitchenware, hand and air sanitizers, and facial creams and masks.

Though the total contribution from these new silver uses is relatively modest, the Silver Institute rather dryly forecasts that "there is a potential for a number of these segments to boost their silver consumption." As you can see in the chart below, its forecast for silver demand for new industrial uses projects that the biggest increases will be in batteries, SSL, and RFID.

The primary uses for silver are growing, too. For example, the automobile industry is increasing consumption, due to both increases in the number of vehicles manufactured and the expanded use of electrical contacts. As the number of improvements in vehicles increase, so does the amount of silver used. For example, silver is used to control seat and mirror adjustments, windshield wipers, and manage navigation systems.

Based on their research, the Silver Institute forecasts that industrial usage will rise to 665.9 million troy ounces by 2015 and account for more than 60% of total fabrication demand.

What It Means for Investors

Since half of silver demand is for industrial purposes, it can act like an industrial metal in addition to its precious metal component. This means it's susceptible to more forces than gold, making it more volatile as well as more difficult to predict its future price.

Conclusions:

  1. The solar industry has great potential to become one of the more important sources of silver demand. This will lend strong support to prices. This industry had zero impact on silver ten years ago; it now represents 10% of total industrial demand.

    And it's not just Japan. According to a news report, 102 countries are now installing solar panels – from just 18 two years ago. Heavy and/or growing usage is reported in Germany, Italy, Japan, France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, US, Australia, and Asia, including China and India.
  2. It appears that the development of the solar industry didn't occur as a result of natural forces, since to a large degree it was initiated by government subsidies that supported the industry (and indirectly the silver price). You may like or not like these market interventions, but as investors, it's important to recognize these trends regardless of whether we agree with them. It's particularly important to keep an eye on these subsidies, as they could vanish if cash-strapped governments change their priorities. That won't happen overnight, however, so we should have ample warning.
  3. Due to its unique properties, the number of applications for silver continues to grow. Researchers at the Silver Institute are upbeat about the future for silver industrial demand. That's no surprise, but it doesn't make them wrong; the implication here is that only the worst type of economy would have a negative impact on demand.
  4. If demand grows fast enough, it could impact not only the price but the availability of the metal, in spite of rising mine production. If that happens, bullion purchase premiums will rise as supply becomes tighter.

The bottom line on the above is that the growing number of industrial applications for silver represents a long-term shift in this market. Increasingly diverse usage is not only here to stay but will continue to grow, supporting the price and impacting the balance of supply and demand.

For investors, the thing to keep in mind is that while long-term prospects for silver prices are extremely bullish, to the degree prices are driven by this increased industrial demand, they are vulnerable to economic correction/contraction in the short term.

Invest accordingly.

With all it has going for it, silver offers investors some of today's best profit opportunities.  But buying bullion isn't the best way to play silver's resurgence.  Here's a far better strategy...

© 2012 Copyright Casey Research - All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2015 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Comments

Bob
06 Oct 12, 14:42
90% less silver to be used in solar panels!

here's an article about The Las VeGaS project and how you can reduce silver by 90% and instead use copper in solar panel manufacturing.

this research receives funding support from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of the ‘Innovation Alliance on Photovoltaics.

makes an interesting read- opinions please

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/07/pv-technology-swapping-silver-for-copper


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Biggest Debt Bomb in History