Silver has reflective, chemical, and conductive properties that are superior to all other metals. This provides two key uses for silver in the production of solar energy. As the world's most-reflective metal (reflecting 97% of all solar energy), silver is used to make the world's best mirrors -- a vital component of solar energy production. In addition, because silver is such a superb catalyst, it also can improve the efficiency of "solar cells," by being blended with these semiconductor materials to increase the power output of any such power unit by approximately 12% (as reported by The Silver Institute).
In an energy-starved world, it is already a "given" that the entire world will have to dramatically increase the percentage of power from such clean-and-"green" power sources. With "peak oil" an obvious reality, and thus oil prices certain to increase to multiples of the current price, even a sharp rise in the price of silver would not reduce the demand for this power source, and there is no substitute for silver -- as peak efficiency of these solar power units must be achieved for solar energy to be a viable energy source (in any kind of large-scale applications)
In the U.S. alone, 5 million ounces of silver are used each year in the production of mirrors. However, the vast majority of such production is of conventional mirrors (i.e,. what we hang on our walls), because solar power is in its infancy. As this application grows in importance, those U.S. consumption numbers can be expected to jump dramatically. Projecting that consumption over the entire globe, and it is easy to see global demand for silver -- just for mirrors/solar energy -- amounting to several, hundred million ounces per year.For those nations not willing (or able) to undertake the massive capital investments (and environmental risks) associated with becoming reliant upon nuclear power, solar energy will continue to become a more attractive alternative to fossil fuels. In the massive global battery market, the newest generation of batteries uses a silver-oxide compound, replacing the previous generation of lithium-ion batteries. The silver-based batteries are not only much more "environmentally friendly" than the lithium batteries, but also contain no flammable compounds -- which have caused (for example) a number of laptop computers to spontaneously burst into flame. This is making silver-based batteries the new battery of choice for mobile phones and laptop computers (along with many other electrical applications). With these markets increasing exponentially -- on a global basis -- silver consumption in batteries is also just in its infancy.