Friday, June 19, 2009

Abound Solar abundant with opportunity

For a young guy, only a seven-month marketing director at a new Colorado company that is manufacturing solar panels to power the nation, Mark Chen knows his stuff.

Chen on Friday led a half dozen reporters and a half dozen others on a press tour of Abound Solar's new manufacturing plant along Interstate 25 in Longmont (you can see it from the highway), and rattled off the company's story as if he were trained in its solar engineering.

"We are a manufacturer of solar modules," Chen said. "This is our product." Then, leaning toward a framed, dark piece of glass (upper right) the size of a small, flat-screen HDTV standing on end, Chen added: "These are thin-film, photo-voltaic modules. We apply a thin film of semi-conductor, microns thick, of a chemical component, to two sheets of glass.... You put them out into the sunshine and they will generate electricity."

From there, Chen went on to explain a litany of things about his product: How much electricity can be produced per panel; how much each panel costs at retail ($140); how Abound plans to sell 100-kilowatt installations of the panels primarily to commerical customers who would most likely put them on the roofs of commercial buildings; how Abound warrantees each panel for 25 years and guarantees to recycle them when they break or wear out; how Abound's new production facility, when its built out, will produce enough panels to produce 200 megawatts of power each year, or the equivalent power to supply 70,000 homes for a year; how Abound already employs about 200 people companywide, and when the plant is built out, will bump that workforce up to about 400; how the company was incorporated in January 2007 but was really founded on 15 years of research done in the labs at Colorado State University; how the company has so far secured $150 million in financing and still has enough of it left to finish out the plant and ramp up sales and distribution; and how Abound's primary ingredient is cadmium telluride, a refined mixture of cadmium and tellurium, which are both found in enough abundance as a byproduct of mining that supply lines are relatively assured even as prices rise.
Chen did not, however, say anything about how cadmium is increasingly being removed from consumer products for health reasons, nor how its disposal also presents a problem to environmentalists. The recyclability of Abound's products presumably addresses that problem.

Chen knows his stuff.

His company has a future, and that future is here in Colorado. If you read deeper into this topic, its process, and its engineering, you might realize there are a lot of money-making opportunities involved. They all come with a "clean energy economy." Be careful, but good hunting.
(Photo credit:


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