Abound Solar Longmont Co

From left, Kyle Neeley, Joel Yeager, Reina Chavez and Phil Martin inspect finimelted solar panels and also prepare them for packaging at the manufacturing facility for Abound Solar in Longmont last month. Abound leaders setup to use part of a $400 million federal loan to include two even more production lines at its plant.

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MARTY CAIVANO

Abound Solar spokesmale Mark Chen explains the development of solar panels, presented at right in the company's "Hall of Fame," at its Longmont production facility. When the manufacturing facility is developed out to its complete production capacity of 200 megawatts a year by the finish of 2011, the company will have actually hired thousands of additional Coloraexecute employees at wages above the neighborhood and national averages, Chen said.


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MARTY CAIVANO

Yousef Sawaqed areas a solar panel onto a conveyor at the production facility for Abound Solar in Longmont last month. Abound provides a manufacturing strategy developed by CSU researchers that deserve to deposit all the layers -- which include cadmium telluride, cadmium sulfide and cadmium chloride -- in a single vacuum chamber.


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LEAH MILLIS

Walajanegative Sampath, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Coloraperform State University, peers with a window in the door of one of his devices. He designed a maker that gave birth to Abound Solar, which has a manufacturing facility in Longmont that employs more than 300 civilization.


In a warehouse off Interstate 25 eastern of Longmont, a “loadinator” machine is utilizing its suction cups to gently pick up a pane of glass and also location it on a conveyor belt.

In only 2 hrs, a shiny new solar panel will roll off the various other finish of the production line.


When the manufacturing procedure — which is already running 24 hours a day — is ramped as much as complete capacity later on this year, Abound Solar will have the ability to create a photovoltaic panel eincredibly 30 seconds for a total of more than 2,800 panels a day and also more than 1 million a year.

Abound’s uniquely efficient production line might make the Loveland-based company the following big point in thin film solar technology. At leastern the U.S. Department of Energy — which granted the firm a $400 million loan guarantee in July — appears to think Abound may be on to something.

“The Abound project is exemplary because of its state-of-the-art cadmium telluride thin-film PV solar modules that are produced through an imaginative procedure not yet provided commercially global,” DOE spokesguy Ebony Meeks sassist in an e-mail.

Abound leaders plan to usage the first $100 million in loans to add 2 even more production lines at its plant exterior Longmont. When the factory is constructed out to its complete production capacity of 200 megawatts a year by the end of 2011, the agency will certainly have actually hired hundreds of extra Colorado employees — many type of of whom will most likely live in surrounding Longmont — at wages over the local and nationwide averages, according to firm spokesguy Mark Chen.

Thin panels for massive jobs


On a wall inside Abound Solar’s manufacturing facility hangs a photo of a brand-new Burger King restaurant in Waghausel, Germany type of. A large swath of panels made by Abound Solar shade the fast-food restaurant’s parking lot, wright here electric cars can plug in and also recharge while their drivers have actually a Whopper. (At this uber-green Burger King, even the restaurant’s authorize is hanging on a wind generator rather of a consistent pole.)

This sort of commercial application — wbelow room is not an concern — is when thin-film solar technology shines compared to the even more prevalent silsymbol solar modules, like those many frequently uncovered on residential rooftops. Thin-film panels have the right to be developed more cheaply than silicon versions — however they’re also much less effective at converting the sun’s energy right into power.

“For a homeowner with a limited amount of roof room, you’re pretty much going to go via silicon for the better effectiveness,” said Seth Masia, deputy editor of Solar Today, the magazine of the Boulder-based Amerideserve to Solar Energy Society.

“But if you own a huge warehouse and also you desire to offset your air conditioning, thin film becomes the cost-efficient method to go,” he sassist. “Thin film is not likely ever before to be reliable sufficient to make sense in a little installation.”

Silicon solar modules are frequently in between 15 percent and 20 percent reliable and also can price around $5 a watt, Masia said. While thin-film panels tend to have an performance of around 10 percent but cost only approximately $2 a watt. A large component of the price tag of silicon solar panels is related to the labor prices of soldering together individual silicon cells. By contrast, thin-film panels can be made in an entirely automated procedure that coats glass through a layer of superconducting product.

The secret sauce’

The largest thin-film solar manufacturer in the human being is First Solar, based in Tempe, Ariz., and also its finished product is not especially various from the one being produced now by Abound Solar. Both rely on a layer of cadmium telluride to act as a semiconductor, capturing the sun’s energy and converting it to electrical energy.

The difference, according to Abound, is in the production procedure.

“This is the key sauce of the company,” Chen, the Abound spokesmale, sassist as he stood in front of a large, fairly nondemanuscript box on the company’s one running manufacturing line. “This is what was arisen at Coloraperform State over 15 years.”

The “trick sauce” is actually an approach of laying dvery own the multi-layered semiconductor “stack” on the glass. In even more typical thin-film manufacturing methods, the layers are applied one at a time in separate vacuum chambers.

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But Abound offers a technique occurred by CSU researchers that have the right to deposit all the layers — which incorporate cadmium telluride, cadmium sulfide and cadmium chloride — in a solitary vacuum chamber.

Aluminum inspiration

The very technical process — which includes using blistering heat to vaporize the assorted coating materials before they solidify on the cooler glass surchallenge — was actually influenced by a seemingly more mundane manufacturing feat: creation of an aluminum deserve to.

“When you tour an aluminum can plant, it’s extremely fertile in regards to labor and also resources and every one of the area and also so on and so forth,” sassist CSU researcher Walajapoor Samroute, who in 1991 started functioning on the procedure currently offered at Abound. “We wanted somepoint that was constant — where the raw product would go in and also a finished product comes out.”

Sampath worked on the difficulty for years via a variety of various other researchers, including Kurt Barth and also Al Enzernorth. By 2000, the team had actually functioned out the basic procedure offered this particular day at Abound, yet they did not seek to commercialize it till 2007, when the industry for solar panels was taking off. The trio developed AVA Solar, which was later renamed Abound Solar.

Today, Sampath just has actually a restricted role at Abound. Mostly he spends his time as a CSU researcher working to crack the following solar innovation nut: how to rise the effectiveness of thin-film panels.

“What we are attempting to do currently is go through the very same production efficiency but come up with a product that doesn’t simply transform simply 10 percent — possibly 20 percent or probably 30 percent,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult, however if we work-related at this, we can figure it out.”

Loan didn’t come easy

Since 2007, Abound has actually elevated about $200 million in endeavor resources and also private equity, however around 18 months earlier, the agency seized on the opportunity to catapult its commercial production by using for a loan guarantee from the UNITED STATE Department of Energy.

The department’s loan promises, which are backed by the Amerideserve to Recoexceptionally and also Reinvestment Act, are designed to support jobs that “employ innovative power performance, renewable energy and also advanced transmission and also distribution modern technologies,” according to the DOE.

Abound’s application was 650 pages with multiples appendices, and also on July 3, after multiple visits to the plant by DOE officials, President Barack Obama announced that Abound would get the guarantee.

But the job-related to actually get the money is far from done, sassist Bob Grier, Abound’s senior vice president of operations, that compared the process of acquiring the loan guarantee approved as equivalent to acquiring a root canal “100 times over.”

“The DOE is not going to write us a check for $400 million,” he said. “We have to raise an additional $50 million in equity. Then tright here are performance requirements that we have to accomplish. This plant has to create a certain level of product for 15 consecutive days prior to the initially $50 million will be released.”

The initially $50 million will certainly be plowed back into the Longmont plant for a 2nd manufacturing line. Once that line is up and also running — and also as soon as it additionally passes a series of performance tests — a 2nd $50 million will certainly be released and also provided to put in a third and also final manufacturing line in Longmont.

The rest of the money will certainly be offered to start up a manufacturing facility inside a manufacturing facility shell that was initially built in Tipton, Ind., to residence a Chrysler transmission plant. The Indiana plant will be bigger than the Longmont manufacturing facility, via eight manufacturing lines and also the capacity to develop 640 megawatts of solar panels a year.

Grier shelp the production lines in Indiana need to be in area by the end of 2012, and the company plans to begin turning a profit a year or two later.

Growth just external the county line

Abound Solar is the second clean-energy agency in the very same community to gain national attention this year for receiving federal stimulus dollars. In April, Vice President Joe Biden checked out adjacent UQM Technologies, which won a $45 million give in 2009 to ramp up its production of propulsion devices for digital vehicles.

Both companies promise to carry out numerous regional work in the close to term — but both are also situated simply outside the Boulder County line in unincluded Weld County. Longmont is the closest big population center to the factories — it dwarfs the tiny Weld County towns of Frederick, Dacona and also Firerock — and that makes its population a likely pool to attract workers from.

John Cody, president and chief executive officer of the Longmont Area Economic Council, shelp that the expansion of companies choose Abound and also UQM is welcome, yet he’s quick to say he’d fairly have actually growth within city borders.

“Without a doubt we like to see neighborhood industrial development,” he shelp. “But we have obtainable room in Longmont and we are excited to check out market thrive in Longmont.”

Beyond the revenue that would flow right into Longmont’s csupplies if a company actually locates within city limits, having actually a company in town frequently increases the business’ link via the area and also urges philanthropic tasks, Cody said.

Even so, Longmont Mayor Bryan Baum referred to as Abound’s expansion a “huge boon for us.” And the fact that UQM and Abound both have Longmont mailing addresses has helped spreview Longmont’s name nationally in link through green sectors, Baum said.

That recognition, linked through a lengthy history of hosting clean-tech markets and exceptionally low utility prices will only assist Longmont lure even more suppliers, Baum sassist.

“We’ve remained in the clean commercial business for twenty years,” he sassist. “It provides us an extremely attrenergetic location to situate.”