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Skyline Solar cuts deal with auto parts supplier

Solar array manufacturer will employ sheet metal workers' expertise to build parts for its frames, racks, and reflectors.

Skyline's high gain solar arrays installed at a San Jose, Calif., pilot project. Skyline Solar

Solar array manufacturing start-up Skyline Solar announced Thursday it has made a deal with auto-parts manufacturer Cosmo International to build its frames, racks, and reflectors.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Cosmo, a unit of Magna International that includes 37 manufacturing plants, is known for making auto body parts and chassis for the automotive industry. Its fabrications include the door frame for the Mercedes M-Class, the tailgate for the Dodge Dakota, the hood of the BMW X3, and an "advanced high strength steel bumper assembly" for the Volkswagen Passat.

While the announcement is a "rust belt to green belt" example of how the U.S. can turn around its failing manufacturing economy with a refocus on green technology, the deal is not necessarily a bellwether.

Skyline Solar is uniquely suited to a partnership with a company that employs skilled sheet metal workers. In addition to the frames and mounting systems, its solar arrays are, in fact, made of bent sheet metal used to reflect sunlight on to a silicon collector containing monocrystalline silicon cells.

The solar start-up, based in Mountain View, Calif., which in addition to private funding has received $3 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Energy, purposely designed its solar systems to be auto-manufacturing friendly.

Skyline Solar announced in May 2009 that, in addition to reducing the amount of silicon needed for a solar system, it had found a way to use pre-existing auto manufacturing sources as a way to cut down on solar manufacturing costs.