Solar

GM-backed Sunlogics Buys Solar Plants, Raises $6 Million

Sunlogics was relatively unknown until it lined up an investment from General Motors and a potentially lucrative deal to market solar powered electric car charging stations to Chevrolet dealers earlier this year. Now it has lined up more investors and bought the private Phoenix Solar Holdings, Sunlogics announced Tuesday.

Through the acquisition, Michigan-based Sunlogics gains two factories owned by Phoenix Solar’s subsidiaries, EVP Solar Germany and New Millennium Solar Equipment. One factory, at 30 MW, is located in Senftenberg, Germany and began production in 2008. Sunlogics said it plans to expand production once it lines up a government grant.

A second, 20-megawatt factory is in New Jersey, and Sunlogics plans to move the manufacturing equipment from the factory to its plants in Michigan and Ontario, Canada. The factory belonged to EPV Solar, which made amorphous silicon solar panels.

Sunlogics had previously announced manufacturing plans in Michigan and Ontario, Canada and talked about its own amorphous silicon thin film technology.

The equity funding from GM, announced in July, allowed Sunlogics to set up factories in Michigan and Ontario. Sunlogics CEO Michael Matvieshen told VentureWire that the factories will each have 20 MW of annual production capacity. It plans to make amorphous silicon thin films.

Sunlogics said the money for the latest acquisition, along with the $6 million it received as an equity investment, came from GLG Partners, Tenor Capital, Atlas Investment Fund and Catalyst Investment Management. GLG and Tenor invested in Sunlogics previously.

It is building its manufacturing base at a time when solar equipment production has slowed. Several U.S. manufactures filed for bankruptcy in the past two months alone: Solyndra, Evergreen Solar and SpectraWatt. Two Germany manufacturers, SolarWorld and Solon, scaled back or closed their manufacturing operations in the U.S.

Solar panel production fell to 333 MW on 561 MW of capacity in the second quarter, down 374 megawatts on 526 megawatts of capacity for the first quarter of this year, according to a report by GTM Research and Solar Energy Industries Association released Tuesday

The solar company is also a project developer and has installed amorphous silicon thin films on GM facilities before. Sunlogics’s chief operating officer, Lou Pellatiro, also hailed from GM. The automaker has invested $7.5 million in Sunlogics and is working with the solar company to promote a marketing program for installing solar panels on charging stations at Chevy dealerships. The idea is to use solar, a cleaner source of power, to highlight the eco-friendly attributes of the Volt.

When GM announced the solar program in July, 24 Chevy dealers had already signed up. GM and Sunlogics pay the upfront cost of installation, and the dealers pay a monthly fee.

Although Sunlogics is a believer in amorphous silicon technology, which hasn’t gained much traction in the market, the company isn’t using only amorphous silicon thin films for its projects. For example, Sunlogics used MiaSole’s copper-indium-gallium-selenide solar panels for one of the first Chevy dealers who participated in GM’s marketing program for the plug-in hybrid electric Volt.