The thin film solar market, such as it is, is really First Solar followed by everyone else.

Vying for the number-two spot in 2011 are Sharp, Trony, Solar Frontier, Solibro and Solyndra. The field starts to get a little wider when you start looking out to 2012 and 2013. Can Solar Frontier really reach the 500 megawatts of CIS PV production it claims? Can Solyndra keep doubling its production levels? And can Abound Solar, a player in thin film cadmium telluride (CdTe) like First Solar, ramp up as it intends? Or will a MiaSolé or NanoSolar start to deliver on their long-standing scale-up promises?

I spoke with Russ Kanjorski, VP of Marketing at the Colorado-based Abound Solar, at the Intersolar show in San Francisco about the trajectory of his firm.

Abound has drawn down some of its DOE loan guarantee in order to fund its factory buildout. The $400 million loan guarantee closed after an "exhaustive and expensive due diligence" process.  The loan guarantee requires rigorous reporting and is tranched and milestoned, according to Kanjorski.

Abound builds 2-foot by 4-foot CdTe PV panels, as does General Electric, inspired by the dimensions of First Solar's panels. Within the CdTe materials systems, there's no standard process. First Solar uses a Vapor Transport Deposition (VTD) process, while Abound Solar and PrimeStar/GE use a Close Space Sublimation (CSS) process for their CdTe manufacturing. Michael Kanellos reported yesterday on a CdTe aspirant using an electroplating process.

Abound shipped 25 megawatts in 2010 and expects to ship 60 megawatts in 2011. The Colorado factory will be at its full 180-megawatt capacity in 2012 with expectations of sub-$1.00 per-watt costs at that time. That's not First Solar cost territory, but Kanjorski suggests that they are "already beating most of the crystalline silicon vendors" on cost and that "the key thing now is to grow." 

"We believe we can catch up -- but we have to be in the hundreds of megawatts to catch up," said Kanjorski.

Once the Colorado factory is at capacity, Abound will start to develop the 650-megawatt capacity factory in Indiana.

Abound just announced that it has agreed to a long-term purchase agreement with ABEL ReTec, a German developer of turnkey renewable energy projects. Abound also announced that it has initiated its agreement with ABEL ReTec with the sale of 1.2 megawatts of Abound Solar’s modules, which were shipped during the second quarter of 2011. The panels were tested on rooftops and will be deployed in free field installations.

Abound announced earlier this year 5.4 megawatts of projects with juwi solar in Jatzke, Germany, and a partnership with Solarsis giving it entry into India’s solar market.