|Founders||Dr. W.S. Sampath, Al Enzenroth, Kurt Barth|
|Headquarters||Loveland, Colorado, U.S.|
|Craig Witsoe (CEO)|
Abound Solar was a manufacturer of cadmium telluride modules–a thin-film photovoltaic technology–based in the United States. It owned an abandoned, toxic production facility in Longmont, Colorado. The company was incorporated as AVA Solar in 2007 and was rebranded as Abound Solar in March 2009. In 2010 Abound received a loan guarantee of $400 million from the U.S. government for the next decade. In 2012 the company laid off almost half its employees before suspending operations and filing for bankruptcy.
Abound Solar's founders began researching thin-film deposition since the late 1980s. In 1991, W.S. Sampath, a professor at Colorado State University, patented a process for low-cost metal deposition within a vacuum. Al Enzenroth, Kurt Barth, Professor Sampath settled upon cadmium telluride (CdTe) as the ideal photovoltaic material for low-cost solar module production.
By 1998, the team had developed a pilot production process featuring an inline, single-vacuum semiconductor deposition tool. Over the course of the next few years, the team continued to develop and refine the technology with strong support from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the National Science Foundation.
By 2004, the founding team had scaled up the technology glass panels of 16 by 16 inches (410 by 410 mm) in size. Federal funding from NREL and the Solar America Initiative enabled them to prove the viability of the technology. In 2006, AVA Solar, Inc. was formed with private funding from local angel investors to commercialize the technology.
In early 2007, institutional investors discovered the company and the proprietary manufacturing process that had been developed. Abound received a $400 million in loan guarantee from the U.S. government in 2010.
In 2012 the company laid off almost half its employees. On June 28, 2012, Abound Solar announced it suspended operations and will file for bankruptcy protection. Abound filed for bankruptcy over the summer of 2012.
Abound Solar produced cadmium telluride thin-film solar modules using a proprietary closed-space sublimation technology developed at Colorado State University.
The unique semiconductor deposition technology features in-line deposition of the full semiconductor stack within a single vacuum chamber. A full PV module is created by taking a glass substrate with semiconductor and adding buss bars, back glass and a junction box. Abound’s process is distinguished by fast throughput (under 2 hours) and low capital costs (reportedly less than $1 / watt).
In April 2008, Abound Solar took possession of a Longmont, Colorado-area building previously used by Applied Films. Within weeks preparations were made to renovate the facility and construct the largest thin-film solar module manufacturing facility in the United States.
The company intended to have a full-scale production line with an annual capacity of 65 MW and an eventual capacity of 200 MW of production per year.
In February 2013, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) announced that thousands of the company's solar panels would have to be mixed in cement and buried due to the level of cadmium (a carcinogenic metal) present. According to the Northern Colorado Business Report (NCBR), "2,000 pallets of solar panels were deemed unsellable and a viable agreement for reclamation of the solar panels was not evident...Therefore, the department views these 2,000 pallets of solar panels as a characteristic hazardous waste for cadmium." In addition to the pallets cited in the report, the Denver Post estimated that company's factory must still dispose of over 4,000 gallons of cadmium-contaminated liquids.
In July 2013, the Denver Post reported that the cleanup of the hazardous materials had been completed. It also reported that over 70,000 leftover solar panels, which were found to be viable, were shipped to a company called Best Safety Glass in Singapore.
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- Bankrupt Abound Solar to Bury Unused Solar Panels in Cement by Michael Sandoval, Daily Signal, February 26, 2013.
- Bankrupt Abound Solar's toxic wastes cleaned at 4 Colorado facilities by Mark Jaffe, Denver Post, July 8, 2013.