The loan will be tapped over the next three years to fund a 12-fold expansion of Abound's capacity, bringing its total annual output to 840 megawatts and giving the company the scale it says it needs to compete with industry leader First Solar. "Abound's device is almost identical to what First Solar makes," says W.S. Sampath, a professor of mechanical engineering at CSU and inventor of Abound's manufacturing process. "Our real distinction is in how we make it. It's a more continuous in-line process. What might take five or six different machines (for another manufacturer), we do in one chamber."
Sampath says that even though Abound produces fewer cells, its per-watt cost of production is already "quite close" to First Solar's. "With a little more volume, we can get lower," he says.