Solar Power 2007: Applied Materials has big plans for big glass

With an old-fashioned bank vault opened to the left of the podium, the setting for Applied Materials' Solar Power press luncheon at the Madison Restaurant in Long Beach had the makings of a caper.

But the scheme hatched by the capital equipment giant won't become the inspiration for a Hollywood thriller, but might end up being a compelling back story in the evolution of solar energy. The company's hopes to revolutionize thin-film photovoltaic module manufacturing with an integrated, fully automated, high-yielding production line capable of handling glass that would barely fit through that vault door.

The official launch of Applied's SunFab line happened in Milan earlier this month at the PVSEC show. But since there weren't any U.S. media types attending, the company decided to do another rollout, buffet and all, for the domestic press and analysts at Solar Power. A quartet of execs---Charlie Gay, Craig Hunter, Jonathan Pickering, and Randy Bane---made the case for the company, its solar role, solar in general, and the new product line.

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