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GM Demonstrates Strong Commitment to Solar Energy

Words by Phil Covington
Energy & Environment

General Motors made two announcements this week, both indicating a strong commitment by the company to solar energy.

On Thursday - GM Ventures - a General Motors subsidiary specializing in developing innovative technologies in the automotive industry, announced a $7.5 million equity investment in Sunlogics PLC - a specialist in commercial solar project development and installation. The funding will allow Sunlogics to open a corporate headquarters in suburban Detroit as well as a manufacturing facility in Ontario, and is expected to create around 300 new jobs.

Jon Lauckner, President of GM Ventures, sees this as a strategic business decision, stating that global solar energy is predicted to more than double by 2016. In line with this projection, GM is committing to double its own solar output at its facilities, from 30 megawatts today to 60 megawatts by the end of 2015 - enough to power 10,000 homes annually. Already, GM states, the company is the leading user of renewable energy in the automotive sector, boasting three of the largest roof-top solar installations in the USA, as well as the largest roof-top solar  installation in the world in Zaragoza, Spain. GM says it meets 1.4% of its U.S. energy consumption from renewable sources today.

Hand-in-glove with GM Ventures' solar investment is yesterday's announcement by GM's Chevrolet division that it will install solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations for it's Volt vehicles at dealerships across North America. The program will have Sunlogics supply the solar panels and install the dealer charging stations, under a program they are calling The Green Zone initiative.

The initiative will entail the installation of solar canopies - each one capable of generating sufficient electricity for 4,500 charges per vehicle annually. Dealers will find the program attractive, as there is no capital investment required on their part. Chris Perry, Vice President, Global Chevrolet Marketing and Strategy, explains one of these canopies will provide enough energy to power two or three homes per year. And aside from powering up the Chevrolet Volts on the dealer lots, any excess energy generated will be re-routed to offset the dealer's regular electricity use. This is, again, good news for dealers as one canopy will likely generate around 25% of their total energy needs.

These announcements by GM Ventures and Chevrolet, provide a logical synergy with the Plug-in hybrid electric Volt passenger vehicle, and help pave the way for a more sustainable vehicle future.