As fossil fuels grow scarcer and their prices rise, scientists and engineers are more interested than ever in harnessing the power of solar energy.
Silver paste is used in 90 % of all crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, which are the most common type of solar cell. These cells are currently being tested for large and small-scale electricity production around the world. In Europe, photovoltaic cells are commonly used to power private homes and small businesses. South Korea and Europe are constructing photovoltaic electric power plants to provide significant sources of electricity for their nation’s power grid. In the United States, national chains like Macy’s and Wal-Mart are installing photovoltaic systems on the roofs of their buildings with the intent to have them supplement up to 40 % of their power needs. Photovoltaic systems are simple and provide immediate power with no pollution. Over 100 million ounces of silver are projected to be used in this application by 2015.
There is a second, growing method of generating electricity that employs silver, wherein the element is used to reflect and concentrate solar energy onto collectors containing salts, which are then used to run generators. This evolving technology is currently responsible for supplying all of the energy for 10,000 homes in Barstow, California – and that’s just one example of its current application around the world.