GM Strikes Solar Deal

(Reuters) – A General Motors Co unit has invested $7.5 million and taken an undisclosed stake in Sunlogics Inc, helping the solar energy systems manufacturer to establish plants in Michigan and Canada and create 310 jobs at the small company.

GM Ventures said it also signed commercial agreements with Sunlogics for the installation of solar charging stations at Chevrolet dealerships and GM plants, as well as a power purchase deal to install large solar arrays at GM factories and buy the energy produced by the arrays.

“Global solar energy use is predicted to more than double by 2016, so we believe that investing in renewable energy is a smart and strategic business decision,” Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures, said in a statement. “And, the Chevrolet solar charging canopy project complements our electrification strategy that started with the Chevrolet Volt.”

In conjunction with the Sunlogics deal, GM said it has committed to doubling the use of solar power use at its plants globally to 60 megawatts — the equivalent of powering 10,000 homes annually — by the end of 2015.

GM has garnered attention with its plug-in hybrid electric Chevrolet Volt car. The U.S. automaker’s push into electric vehicles is partly aimed at seizing the green mantle Toyota Motor Corp earned with the roll-out of its popular Prius hybrid vehicle.

Sunlogics and GM previously collaborated to develop a solar photovoltaic canopy and charging station for Volt dealers and there are two in place at stores in Grand Blanc, Michigan, and Modesto, California.
The technology designed by Sunlogics is called the Chevrolet Volt “Green Zone,” which gives Chevy dealers the ability to solar charge the electric car under the canopy.

A similar solar charging station from Sunlogics is used at the automaker’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, where the Volt is built. GM also has charging systems at four other U.S. factories, three supplied by Sunlogics.

The investment marks the eighth by GM’s venture capital arm, which was established last June with $100 million in funding. The investments have ranged in size from $3 million to $8 million, totaling about $43.5 million.

One of GM Ventures’ areas for investment focus is in technologies involving the greening and electrification of vehicles. Other areas include in-car information-entertainment technologies, sensors or processors, and “smart” or advanced materials that can improve vehicle performance or cut costs.

GM Ventures is headed by Lauckner, a veteran GM engineer, and overseen by GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky, a former investment banker in charge of strategy at the automaker.

Sunlogics said it will use some of GM’s funding to establish its headquarters outside Detroit and open manufacturing plants there and in Ontario, Canada. The Michigan plant will employ 200 people and the Canadian plant 110.

Sunlogics specializes in solar project development, manufacturing and installation for use by industrial, utility, government, corporate and retail organizations.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit, editing by Dave Zimmerman)