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Study Shows Increasing Demand for Solar Energy Drives Silver Prices Higher

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Rising demand for solar panels pushes silver prices higher according to a recently released university study.

Researchers at the University of Kent found a “causal relationship” between solar panel demand and the price of the white metal.

With the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of all metals, silver’s physical characteristics make it an important component in the production of solar panels.  The average solar panel uses about 20 grams of silver, and the price of the metal makes up about 6.1% of the total cost of each unit.

Researchers tracked the price of silver and installed solar panel capacity between 1990 and 2016 and used the data to map correlations in demand and cost. According to the study, “The data clearly showed a rise in silver price at the same time as increased demand for solar panels, such as after the 2008 global recession indicating the causal relationship between these two variables. Similarly, prices rose after 2011 when there was worldwide concern oil prices were becoming too high leading to a move towards renewable energy sources.”

The research shows that silver price rises are directly linked to the increased demand for solar panels,” lead study author Iraklis Apergis said.

According to the Silver Institute, continued investment in solar photovoltaic energy, should further boost global industrial demand for silver over the next decade and beyond. The institute projects roughly 820 million ounces of silver will be utilized by global solar energy applications alone through 2030.

China, in particular, continues to rapidly increase solar energy production. In its 13th Five-Year Plan, Beijing aims to triple its solar capacity by 2020. To date, 2017 ranked as the strongest on record for solar-related silver demand.

Overall, “green technologies” are projected to consume over 1.5 billion ounces of silver over the next twelve years.

Silver is also used in the manufacture of electric car batteries. Battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid sales could account for as much as 17% of global car sales with traditional hybrids making up another 20% of the market by 2030. This will also boost the demand for silver, according to the Silver Institute.

Overall, silver demand was up 4% and hit a three-year high in 2018, according to the 2019 World Silver Survey recently released by the Silver Institute. Meanwhile, silver mine production fell for the third straight year, dropping 2% in 2018 to 855.7 million ounces. The downward trend in production seems to have continued into the first quarter of this year with the world’s largest primary silver producer reporting a plunge in production through the first three months of 2019.

The silver-gold ratio remains historically high. At the time of this report, it was hovering around 85-1. As we’ve been reporting for the last year, this is essentially silver on sale.

Given the supply and demand dynamics, along with the prospects of a weakening dollar in the midst of the “Powell Pause,” it seems likely that gap will close.

Silver has hit an all-time high of $49 per ounce twice – in January 1980 and then again in April 2011. If you adjust that $49 high for inflation, you’re looking at a price of around $150 per ounce. In other words, silver has a long way to run up. As one analyst put it, “With the long-term downside potential of silver very low versus its current valuation, the risk/reward is one of the best investments on the planet.”

Get Peter Schiff’s latest gold market analysis – click here for a free subscription to his exclusive monthly Gold Videocast.
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