Colorado’s 200 MW Solar Manufacturing Facility Nears Completion

Colorado State University has announced that its method for manufacturing low-cost, high-efficiency solar panels is nearing mass production. In a new 200 megawatt (MW) solar manufacturing facility, AVA Solar Inc. will start production by the end of next year on the patented technology developed at Colorado State by mechanical engineering Professor W.S. Sampath.

Sampath has developed a continuous, automated manufacturing process for solar panels using glass coating with a cadmium telluride thin film instead of standard crystalline silicon. Because the process produces high efficiency devices (from 11% to 13%) at a high rate and yield, it can be done more cheaply than with existing technologies, according to a recent release from Colorado State.

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

Along with two affiliate faculty members and former students Kurt Barth and Al Enzenroth, Sampath 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.

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