Abound Solar Scores Big Funding Boost

Solar power is becoming more economical, but government backing remains a key to its growth, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance study. And one company that manufactures the cadmium telluride, thin-film photovoltaic modules that are becoming a big part of the industry’s future is cashing in on support available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced it has wrapped up a $400 million loan guarantee for Abound Solar that will help the company expand its thin-film solar manufacturing capacity in Longmont, Colo., and set up a huge new plant in Tipton, Indiana. The company said it had also raised $110 million in private equity financing to fund these expansions.

Cadmium telluride thin-film solar panel, Abound Solar

image via Abound Solar

The Indiana project, which will become the world’s largest thin-film manufacturing plant, is a good example of the new direction of American manufacturing. The 781,750-square-foot facility that Abound has leased, near Kokomo, was built Getrag Transmission Manufacturing to supply Chrysler, but the company filed for bankruptcy in 2008, before the plant could even open. Abound said development of the site to make solar panels was expected to begin in 2012, and that ultimately the project will create more than 1,000 full-time jobs in the area. The new capacity in Colorado will create around 200 jobs, the Energy Department said.

The Energy Department said Abound uses an innovative process in which thin films of cadmium-telluride are deposited onto glass panels that lowers production costs. But the benefits apparently extend beyond cost. The department said it also believes the “production and installation of these panels produces significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than crystalline silicon panels.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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