“We’re not competing with silicon PV,
but with coal and gas.”
—Tim Barry, Abound Solar
terminals; seal the circuit under a pane of tempered glass; add the connector box and seal
it; test the rig for PV efficiency, waterproofing
and electrical leakage; and pack the finished
modules for shipping, 50 panels per carton.
The panels measure 1,200 by 600 millimeters
( 48 by 24 inches) and weigh 25 kilograms
( 55 pounds). The company will take back all
modules for recycling at the end of their useful
life, but because the modules carry a 25-year
warranty, Barry and Anderson shouldn’t have
to worry about a recycling process for at least
Right now, Barry supervises a team of five
development engineers, and he spends part
of the day meeting with the process groups
to help solve what he calls “engineering puzzles.” “In the absence of unexpected outcomes,
we look at reducing process variability,” he
says. “For instance, we look at ways of getting
closer to optimum thickness of the deposited
At full tilt, the line will employ 50 or 60
technicians to monitor and adjust the machinery and about 10 operators per shift to drive the
forklifts and replenish supplies, such as glass,
drums of chemicals, and reels of conductive
tape. During this startup phase, Barry needs to
hire these crews, so he spends part of the day
doing phone screens and live interviews.
Barry graduated in 1984 from Arizona
state university, with a bachelor of science in
chemical engineering. He joined Honeywell as
By Katrina PhruKSuKarn
a process engineer, working on silicon semicon-
ductor manufacturing. While working at a Hon- eywell factory in Colorado springs, he earned a master of business administration at the uni- versity of Phoenix and wound up doing more management than hands-on engineering. In 2007, Barry says, “I wanted a job I could feel good about.” solar looked like a step in the FOR ANDREW McAllister, director of programs at the nonprofit California Cen- ter for sustainable Energy (CCsE), the appropriation of federal stimulus funds has become a focal point of his
right direction, and when he heard about the daily activities. All stimulus funds must be
Abound startup he jumped at it (the company allocated by late 2010, and the deadline for
was originally called AVA solar). He joined municipal applications fell in early June. so
the project in November 2008, four months McAllister has been racing the clock to forge
into a nine-month setup. a regional funding strategy that will cover 19
transferring from silicon to Cdte and jurisdictions in san Diego County.
glass wasn’t a stretch. “A lot of the tools are Adopting a cooperative approach appears
thesame,” Barrysays. “Thefilm andsubstrates to be the only practical way for the area’s
are different so I had to adapt to new materials, underfunded municipalities to meet an
but it’s still a P-N junction and I understand expected mandate to cut regional emissions
that. This is more hands-on, and I love that. I by 85 percent. “This is a once-in-a-generation
love getting smocked up and getting in there opportunity to establish policies and programs
to work on the machines.” at the local jurisdiction level that support sus-
Because it’s a new factory, Barry and Ander- tainable decisions,” McAllister explains. Along
son have to create procedures from scratch.
They’re not being mentored by a previous generation of engineers with experience on the
same line, but by professor W.s. sampath at
Colorado state university in Fort Collins, who
developed and patented the dry-deposition
Cdte process over a 16-year period. Barry,
responsible for the plasma-sputter deposition
chamber, spends as much time as he can on
campus with sampath’s team.
Abound’s business plan calls for tripling the
existing line, to produce more than 200 MW
of Cdte modules annually. At the appropriate
scale, the goal is to drive costs below $1 per
watt. “We’re not competing with silicon PV,
but with coal and gas,” Barry says.
to get there, Barry expects to run a contin-uous-improvement program. “We use a standard method of statistical process control,” he
says. “It entails both preventative and corrective maintenance and will involve incorporating design changes into the ongoing production process. It may look routine, but every
day is different.”
Seth Masia is managing editor of SOLAR TODAY.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of Programs:
Process engineering Manager tim Barry is
one of two engineers responsible for getting
abound Solar’s complex line for manufacturing photovoltaic panels running smoothly.
cadmium telluride (Cdte) and cadmium sul-fide (Cds) are deposited onto sheets of window glass using a secret plasma-sputtering process. This section of the building is walled off
and environmentally controlled. It’s not just a
matter of a clean-room technique. The filtered,
negative-pressure atmosphere protects workers from inhaling toxic cadmium compounds.
The back of the line is supervised by Barry’s
colleague, Clint Anderson. Running at normal
atmospheric pressure within protective glass
tunnels, this part of the line links machines that
score the PV coating to guide electron flow;
apply conductive tape to lead current to the