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GM buys into solar EV charging through Sunlogics

GM Ventures invests in solar panel maker and project developer Sunlogics for solar canopies and large solar arrays at GM facilities.

A solar canopy from Sunlogics charging Chevy Volts at a GM dealership.
A solar canopy from Sunlogics charging Chevy Volts at a GM dealership.

General Motor's venture arm said today it has invested $7.5 million in solar company Sunlogics and will purchase its solar arrays for GM facilities and dealerships.

Sunlogics will use the money to ramp up its operations, including solar panel production in Michigan and Ontario. The company, based in Rochester Hills, Mich., makes panels using thin-film amorphous silicon solar cells. It also installs and owns solar projects for corporations using its panels.

As part of the investment, GM will install solar canopies at its dealerships and business. It also signed a power purchase agreement in which it will buy the power produced from large solar arrays operated by Sunlogics at GM buildings.

GM said it intends to double its corporate solar energy output to 60 megawatts worldwide by the end of 2015, enough to power 10,000 homes.

Until now, GM Ventures has invested in start-ups that make in-car technologies or products to make vehicles less polluting, including battery maker Sakti3 and plug-in hybrid van maker Bright Automotive.

But the investment in a solar panel maker and project developer ties into GM's electrification strategy, said Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures. GM is also seeking to profit from the fast-growing solar business.

"The Chevrolet solar charging canopy project (at dealerships) complements our electrification strategy that started with the Chevrolet Volt by helping our cars live up to their fullest green potential," Lauckner said in a statement.

The move into solar dovetails with GM's corporate goal to lighten the environmental footprint of its operations. Investing in solar power also makes business sense, said Mike Robinson, GM's vice president of energy, environment, and safety policy.

In a power purchase agreement, businesses or organizations buy the power produced by solar panels, rather than pay for the installation of the array. The installer typically owns and operates the array. It's a financing arrangement that allows buyers to avoid the upfront cost of the panels and to fix predictable power rates over a long period.