AVA Solar To Begin Mass Production Of New Solar Technology

September 19, 2007 by Jeff Shepard

AVA Solar Inc. will start production by the end of next year on what is being described as a pioneering, patented technology developed by mechanical engineering Professor W.S. Sampath at Colorado State University. Produced at less than $1 per watt, it is claimed that the panels will dramatically reduce the cost of generating solar electricity and could power homes and businesses around the globe with clean energy for roughly the same cost as traditionally generated electricity.

Sampath claims to have developed a continuous, automated manufacturing process for solar panels using glass coating with a cadmium telluride thin film instead of the standard high-cost crystalline silicon. Because the process is said to produce high efficiency devices (ranging from 11 to 13%) at a very high rate and yield, it is claimed that it can be done much more cheaply than with existing technologies. The cost to the consumer could be as low as $2 per watt, about half the current cost of solar panels, and competitive with cost of power from the electrical grid in many parts of the world. Additionally, it is also stated that the technology does not need to be tied to a grid, and thus can be affordably installed and operated in nearly any location.

"This technology offers a significant improvement in capital and labor productivity and overall manufacturing efficiency," said Sampath, Director of Colorado State’s Materials Engineering Laboratory. "The current market is over $5 billion annually and additional markets are developing."

Colorado State’s Office of Economic Development and the Northern Colorado Economic Development Corp. have supported the startup, and the Colorado State University Research Foundation holds equity in the company as part of a licensing arrangement.

"We have an unusual situation in that there is more demand than there is supply," said Pascal Noronha, President and CEO of AVA Solar. "The world has an energy problem. The time is right to solve this problem with a green solution, especially given that electricity consumption is going to grow astronomically."

Sampath – along with two affiliate faculty members, Kurt Barth and Al Enzenroth – formed AVA Solar in January to commercialize the technology. Since then, the company has raised two rounds of funding and recently was awarded a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar America Initiative.