NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Top four metals and minerals that help solar panels work

  • Date: 14.05.2019
  • Type: Featured Article
  • Author: NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Have you ever wondered what a solar panel is made from? Or how it can convert the sun’s rays into electricity? The answer is in the elements used to create the panel itself. We’ve highlighted four of the most important elements used in solar panels, and how they help us to harness solar energy. 


copper article image


Used in the wiring of solar panels and certain types of cells, copper is especially abundant in the Cadia Valley in NSW, which contains one of the largest copper deposits in Australia (7.8 million tonnes). 


silicon article image


Another abundant material that constitutes more than 28 percent of Earth's crust, silicon comes from sand and quartz-rich rocks, and is used in the production of photovoltaic cells, which absorb sunlight.


silver article images


Silver is an excellent conductor of electric current and is used on the front and back of crystalline solar cells. NSW is a major producer of silver, particularly at Broken Hill, which has over 20,000 tonnes of the metal.


zinc article image


Some newer photovoltaic technology uses zinc oxide to achieve higher solar-cell efficiency via increased energy conversion. It is plentiful in NSW, with estimated reserves of nearly 30 million tonnes.


Learn more about how high-tech elements are helping to create a high-tech, connected and environmentally sustainable future by checking out the High-Tech Metals Map.