General Motors Ventures has invested $7.5 million into Sunlogics, which makes solar-powered garage stalls with amorphous silicon solar panels.
GM said it will also install solar arrays at dealerships and GM facilities around the country. GM has 30 megawatts of solar right now and they want to double the total to 60 megawatts by 2016.
The company also just said it would boost the number of Chevy Volts to 5,000 a month to surpass Nissan and its Leaf in sales.
The deal certainly will help Sunlogics. Amorphous silicon has in some ways become the forgotten material in solar. The vast majority of solar panels shipped today are crystalline silicon panels and the price is dropping toward $1.30 a watt. Meanwhile, companies like First Solar and Solyndra continue to drive up the efficiency and drive down the cost in, respectively, cadmium telluride and copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar panels. First Solar produces panels at 11.7 percent efficiency for less than 75 cents a watt and CIGS vendors all talk about 12-percent-plus efficiencies. A lot of the amorphous industry is stuck in the 7 percent to 9 percent range.
Amorphous silicon makes some sense in parking canopies. The panels are light, which is great for roofs not designed to bear heavy loads, and the packaging and framing can be designed in such a way as to reduce installation costs. But CIGS panels are light, too. Many of the big parking garage arrays, like those at Google and Applied Materials, rely on crystalline silicon. Still, amorphous has its place. Constellation Energy will install a 5.4-megawatt amorphous array at a Toys 'R' Us shipping facility that will consume nearly all of the 1.3 million square feet of roof space.
Locals will cheer the investment. Sunlogics says that GM's cooperation will create 200 jobs in Michigan and 110 more at its Canadian facility.
GM Ventures has made a number of investments in the automotive space. It put money in Coskata (fuel from trash), Bright Automotive (lightweight delivery vehicles), Sakti3 (solid state batteries) and Mascoma (superbugs churning out fuel.)