Thin Film Solar Cell Maker Gets a $400-Million Boost  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Technology Review has an article on thin film solar company Abound Solar's improved process for making Cadmium Telluride cells - Solar Cell Maker Gets a $400-Million Boost.

A thin-film solar firm spun out of Colorado State University says it has developed a way to make cadmium-telluride photovoltaic modules that could be cheaper than processes used by other makers of such solar cells. Abound Solar of Loveland, CO, has received a conditional $400-million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The loan will be tapped over the next three years to fund a 12-fold expansion of Abound's capacity, bringing its total annual output to 840 megawatts and giving the company the scale it says it needs to compete with industry leader First Solar. "Abound's device is almost identical to what First Solar makes," says W.S. Sampath, a professor of mechanical engineering at CSU and inventor of Abound's manufacturing process. "Our real distinction is in how we make it. It's a more continuous in-line process. What might take five or six different machines (for another manufacturer), we do in one chamber."

Sampath says that even though Abound produces fewer cells, its per-watt cost of production is already "quite close" to First Solar's. "With a little more volume, we can get lower," he says.

It's a bold claim. Tempe, AZ-based First Solar, which currently has about 1,300 megawatts of annual production capacity and plans to add another 800 megawatts over the next two years, disclosed in its last quarter that it can produce its modules for an industry-leading 81 cents per watt.

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