Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Green Cities Interviews Maureen McHale - Listen to the Podcast NOW!

The solar industry is on fire… in a good way. Solar panels and solar farms are popping up all over the nation, but do you ever consider who is behind the production of this hot technology? Maureen McHale of Advanced Solar Photonics (ASP) took a minute to speak with Kimberly Miller of Green Cities Media at Green Cities Florida to discuss some of their recent advancements and the status of solar in the Sunshine State. One thing is clear from this interview; Florida is keeping Advanced Solar Photonics busy. Born from a laser systems producer, Advanced Solar Photonics quickly found a home in the sustainability industry by creating parts for solar panels. The demand for parts led to the idea of selling entire solar panels and even the production of solar farms. Green Cities turned out to be the perfect opportunity for this rapidly expanding company. The media attention and sheer number of participants made it a perfect place for Advanced Solar Photonics to spread their message to a diverse and attentive audience.

In the spirit of true sustainability and the triple bottom line, ASP is a completely American made company, even their productions means are 100% American. Not only does this mean a more efficient way to produce their panels, but their expansion directly relates to Florida’s economy. Maureen states that they are expected to fill 1,500 green jobs over the next two years in Florida’s Lake Mary region. When asked about their future opportunities Ms. McHale responded with one word “Endless”. She and ASP have plenty to look forward to, especially with the backing of government initiatives from the Obama administration and locally in Florida. They have no intention on squandering their good fortune, as they are making plans to diversify their brand. One way in particular are the “Brown Fields” created by past manufacturing sectors in Florida where developers cannot build homes. Here they found opportunity in crisis as “Brown Fields” are perfect for installing solar farms, which in essence turn the land from brown to green. These farms range from the size of a city block to a 2,500 acre lot. This opens the door to become one of the largest energy producers selling power back to utility companies. Combine this with their assorted list of clients and Florida’s initiative to create solar cities and Advanced Solar Photonics is set to be a major player in the industry for years to come.

Transcript of Interview - May 20, 2009

I’m Kimberly Miller for Green Cities Media speaking today with Maureen McHale of Advanced Solar Photonics, whose tagline is “innovation today for a brighter tomorrow,” and we’re broadcasting actually from Green Cities here in Orlando, Florida. Welcome, Maureen. Thanks so much for joining me today.

Thanks for having me.

So I want to go ahead and start off by asking kind of the history of the company, where the idea for Advanced Solar Photonics come from and what kind of things were you guys interested in whenever you started this company?

Sure. The owner of the company actually started making laser systems for all different types of industries, everything from flat panel displays, semi-conductor, aeronautical, automotive, industrial applications. A lot of those applications are very similar to the photovotaics where the panels need to be cut; the glass needs to be cut. They need to be scribed. Lots of lasers are used in the making of them so we developed a solar line, and from that point, because there’s so much demand for solar panels, the owner said, “You know what? We should not only sell the equipment that makes the panels, we should make panels.”

And here we are.

Terrific, so how long ago did that get started?
The company’s been around since nineteen ninety something…in the nineties, and Advanced Solar Photonics spent the last several years making equipment specifically for the solar industry. The first panels are actually coming off our line in July of this year.

Terrific; and whenever these panels come off of your line, what is it specifically that is going to set them apart from other panels that are out there?
Well not only are they made with the latest technology and lasers, they’re also manufactured in a lean way in that all of the processes and technologies used are very efficient making our panels very efficient and also the panels are going to be made of 100% American made components the equipment even is made in America.

So we’re 100% American-made.

Alright, and you know sometimes I think people forget that part of the triple bottom line and sustainability and this kind of conversation also needs to have jobs here in the United States. That’s really important.
Right; and we are growing so fast. In the next two years we’ll have fifteen hundred new green positions.

That’s terrific. And so will those be located in Florida?
Yes, actually in Lake Mary, which is just north of Orlando.So you guys are located here in Florida, the sunshine state; seems like it’s a good place for you guys to be.

How has the reception been for this kind of technology?
It has been fantastic. As soon as we announced that we were going to be making panels, the phones were ringing, the emails were coming in left and right, and shows like this just attract more attention to what we’re doing and how great renewables can be for everyone.

Certainly; and so who do you see as your biggest client? Is it business people? Is it people who are wanting to put solar panels on their homes? Who’s your target audience?
We’re working with everyone along the chain. We’re going to work with installers, distributors, all the way up to utility companies that want to buy our power. We intend to put solar farms together so that we can sell back to the electric companies.

That’s terrific. So what do you think is the future of solar photonics?
It’s endless. Literally every week we get bigger and bigger, and more things change. It’s nothing but bright and green.

So with the new Obama administration a lot of green initiatives being put into place…do you think that’s going to affect your business specifically? And do you think this is an easier climate with this administration to try and advance this business?
I think more people are talking about renewables because of the government initiatives today. It’s nothing but good. It’s a start at least people are starting to understand and recognizing solar panels. I went down to the beach this past weekend, and I saw solar panels lighting up the channel markers for the beaches and the boats so it’s becoming recognizable. Everybody’s talking about it, and the more government incentives, the more state incentives that can bring down the costs for normal people like you and me to put them on their houses, and the better it is.

So what is it about Green Cities specifically that was attractive for your company to come here?
It’s definitely the number of people we were able to get in front of, the media attention, the government officials that were here, the fact that Orlando is becoming a green city. I mean it’s huge for us. So anything that we can tag along with and be involved in is where we want to be.

So what kind of advancements would you like to see in Florida happen in the next 5-10 years?
I’m definitely excited about the new solar studies about more green everything; from the booth next to us has the pavers that the water penetrates through to, like I said, the solar panels lighting up traffic lights and overhead displays and all those kind of things. Just more and more renewable sources.

Right; it seems like a real change towards sustainability is actually happening, and to see it happen here in Florida is exceptionally exciting I think. So are there any upcoming projects that you guys are going to be working on that maybe you’re excited or that you could share with us?

Yes, actually we’re looking to do a project for Seminal County School systems, and trying to put panels on their roofs, and power their buildings. There’s, like I said, solar farms that we’re putting together. There’s something called Brown Fields, where there’s been waste from companies and other manufacturing processes that have gotten into the ground, and they can no longer use the ground for new buildings. They can’t put houses there unless they do a huge cleanup. Our panels and our solar towers are perfect for that because we can make a solar farm, put panels on there, and generate electricity from a piece of land that may not even be usable.

That’s terrific. So with these Brown Fields and solar farms, about how long does it take to complete a project like that?
Well thankfully we have this great technology we’ve just partnered with, a manufacturing fabricator that has a technology that can put a post for the tower into the ground in about three hours time. Normally, it would take a month for the concrete to set and things like that. It’s the same technology that was used to put the fence between Mexico and Texas so it’s like 120 miles plus, and they did it in like sixty-one days. So this is a fast way to do things. So literally we can put a farm up in a matter of weeks and not months or years.

Great; so more efficient.

So how big are these Brown Fields and solar farms? Do you have a rough estimate?
There’s all different sizes. Depending on the size of the contamination, it could be anywhere from a city block to acres and acres. We’re looking to cover probably about twenty-five hundred acres. There’s some in Pensacola; some here; other local companies have them. So we’re partnering with these people to make those Brown Fields green. It’s what we’re trying to do.

Right. That’s amazing. Well I wish you the best of luck. It sounds like you guys have an incredible year or five ahead of you.It’s very exciting. And it’s really nice to meet you and have you here at Green Cities.
Well thanks a lot!

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