New Name, Same Ambition: Abound Solar Hot on First Solar's Heels


abound-solar-logo1Firing up its first full-scale factory today, the solar startup known until last month as AVA Solar has a new name — Abound Solar — but a tried-and-true target: Beat sector-leading First Solar (s FSLR) on cost. When we covered Abound’s massive $104 million equity financing round last summer, we noted that it was using the same material (cadmium telluride) that helped catapult First Solar to darling status, and employing a process similar to First Solar, depositing a thin layer of the stuff on glass.

Back then, Abound — a spinoff from Colorado State University — claimed that it would produce solar PV modules at under $1 per watt. For comparison, First Solar dropped its module costs to $0.98 per watt, down from $1.14 per watt in August. Today, Abound says it is starting module production at its first full-scale plant — a 200 MW-capacity facility in Longmont, Colo. — and Abound CEO Pascal Noronha tells Reuters that the company will reach $0.98 within three months and lead the industry on cost within a year or two.

“We think we have a slight technological advantage over First Solar,” Abound Noronha told Reuters in an interview. The advantage, he said, comes from the company’s automated manufacturing process. Reuters quotes Noronha saying, “We have a manufacturing process that is about as continuous as making beer cans, and therefore makes us the lowest cost manufacturer of photovoltaic modules.”

We like to see healthy competition in the race to grid parity, but let’s keep Abound’s claims in perspective. The company expects to ramp to a 65 MW capacity at the new Colorado plant by year’s end, and 200 MW by the middle of 2010. First Solar has more production experience under its belt, more volume (by the end of 2009 it expects to exceed 1 GW annual production capacity) and it will likely continue to cut costs in the months and years ahead — especially if it has an ambitious new competitor nipping at its heels.

Photo credit Abound Solar



I don’t understand why so much fuss has been made about the PV manufacturers. Solar thermal kicks PV’s butt, especially the solar stirling setups.

$1/ watt is the manufacturing cost. Its not what the cells sell for. In order to pay for the expensive plants and give the investors a return, they need to sell for $2 or $3/watt.

Another thing that nobody seems to talk about is that PV needs to track the sun, just like any other cost effective solar power system. So the cells are only half the total cost.

The kicker on the tracking issue is that if the cells are only 10% efficient, it takes HUGE areas to make a decent amount of power. The solar stirling systems are 25% efficient, so they only need 40% of the area that the PV systems need.

Then there is the issue of the inverter. PV cells put out variable voltage DC power, not AC. Inverters add a lot of cost and decrease the system efficiency.

I think solar stirling makes a lot more sense than PV, but yet it doesn’t seem to attract nearly the investment dollars. Maybe that is because solar stirling is cheap enough that it pays to implement it and sell power rather than a product and thus big power companies are investing in the companies directly ?

:scratches head:


Thanks for the article, Josie. Interesting stuff!


Comments are closed.