The company I work for was once again featured in the news, thanks to my efforts. This time, a local publication, Lake Mary Life Magazine wrote a great indepth feature story regarding our solar panel manufacturing plant and what's in store for us. Our facility is located in Central Florida in the city of Lake Mary.
To read the story on Advanced Solar Photonics where Demitri Nikitin, Edgardo Rodriguez and myself, Maureen McHale are quoted, either click on the Lake Mary Life Logo above, or read the article below...
Here comes the sun Solar panel plant energizes Lake Mary
by Peter Reilly
Posted Jun 18, 2009 at 07:00 AM
Lake Mary’s future is looking bright and sunny – thanks to solar panel maker, Advanced Solar Photonics (ASP). In a move perfectly timed with President Obama’s call to develop renewable sources of energy to grow the economy, the company has launched a $40 million project to build out 100,000 square feet at their facility on Rinehart Road and become the first solar panel manufacturing plant in Florida.
The project, dubbed SolarFAB, is expected to be up and running this summer and should bring 200 new jobs for area residents, along with an economic boost to Seminole County and the state. Over the next two years, as the company grows, an additional 1,300 new jobs could be created.
“This is a remarkable opportunity, not just for our city, but for our entire region to have such a cutting-edge company provide job growth and opportunities for enhanced economic development,” says Lake Mary Mayor David Mealor. “It’s an excellent match for the types of target industries we’ve been attempting to draw to the Central Florida region. Especially with so many communities struggling financially, we’re very fortunate that people are willing to invest in Lake Mary. It speaks volumes about our community.”
Customer response to ASP’s decision to produce solar panels in Florida has been very positive; the project has become even more ambitious than first conceived. Originally the company was planning to apply thin-film conductive material over glass to produce up to 40-megawatt solar panels.
But now ASP also plans to use monocrystalline technology to make larger panels that can produce up to 500 megawatts in output. These panels could be mounted on solar towers at a mall to power the entire mall and even reduce a user’s utility bill by feeding unused energy back to the power company’s grid. The panels could also be mounted on the roofs of schools and big box stores like Walmart.
That’s a lot of power. A megawatt is 1,000,000 watts. By comparison, the average homeowner would use a 2-kilowatt solar panel system to power a house. A kilowatt is 1,000 watts.
Maureen McHale, ASP’s corporate marketing and public relations manager, says the company will start by producing 5-megawatt panels and then increase 50 megawatts every couple of months, and eventually build up production over the next two years to the 500-megawatt panels.
“Demand for panels is so high right now,” says Maureen, “It’s just exponentially growing.”
In a very short time SolarFAB could be the largest thin-film and monocrystalline solar manufacturing plant in the country. It is also the only solar panel company in the nation to have a product that is 100 percent manufactured in the USA, the company’s CEO Demitri Nikitin pointed out.
Demitri brought ASP, a cutting-edge developer of laser equipment, to America from Austria in 2001. The company has been in Lake Mary since 2008. He says the company had many reasons for relocating to this area. Central Florida is a high-tech hub with a skilled workforce. Lake Mary is a wonderful place to live and the Lake Mary Commissioners, along with the county’s Economic Development Commission, have been very supportive.
“The facility is a tremendous fit,” says Demitri, referring to the Rinehart Road plant. “Lake Mary is one of the best places to live in the United States. It’s surrounded by areas from which we can pull qualified people. We think it’s a perfect place for us to start high volume manufacturing of a high-tech product.”
And one other thing - it’s really, really sunny here most of the year.
“This is the Sunshine State,” says Demitri. “There’s obviously plenty of sunshine to support the solar panel business.”
Now is the perfect time for ASP to be in the solar energy business. Solar panel efficiency is up to around 17 percent from a meager 1 percent when the technology debuted. The price of traditional energy has risen high enough to make solar energy cost-effective. And the government is providing millions of dollars in stimulus money to encourage solar energy development and production.
ASP also has a clear advantage over other companies. Their laser technology allows them to produce solar panels more efficiently and at a lower cost than traditional manufacturers.
“We’re focusing on making the manufacturing process more efficient,” says Maureen. “As new technology comes out we will incorporate that into our process. We’ll not only have the highest-efficiency panels, we’ll have the lowest manufacturing cost.”
Demitri points out that the company will also make money from power purchase agreements with power utilities. ASP would convert “brown fields” - land that is unsuitable for any other use - into solar energy farms. ASP would then sell the energy to the power company. He said they have already identified areas in Lake Mary that could be used for this purpose. Demitri believes a solar farm could generate power comparable to that of an atomic power plant.
It seems that the sky… no make that the sun, is the limit.
“It’s very exciting,” says Edgardo Rodriguez, ASP executive vice president. “Solar farms are a perfect alternative to building nuclear plants. This is the only industry I see for the real creation of jobs and the growth of the economy. We all use energy and the demand for energy will continue to grow. The solar energy industry is the only industry that will save the economy of the United States.”
And if he’s right, the nation’s economic recovery could start right here in Lake Mary.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
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!