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GE Unit Partners with SunPower on California Solar Projects

GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of GE, announced today that it is partnering with SunPower Corporation -- a Silicon Valley-based manufacturer of high-efficiency solar cells, solar panels, and solar systems -- to provide financing for five California solar power projects. The projects, totaling approximately eight megawatts, include a system for Toyota Motor Sales' Parts Center that will be the largest single-roof solar power installation in the United States. The companies are also collaborating on solar projects for HP, Agilent and two county and regional agencies.

Formed in the spirit of GE's ecomagination program, the joint venture streamlines the implementation of large commercial and public solar power systems. It also helps California meet the goals of the California Solar Initiative to generate 3,000 megawatts of new, solar-produced electricity by 2017.

GE Energy Financial Services is acquiring a majority equity interest in the five solar photovoltaic projects, which SunPower will design and build, operate and maintain. GE Energy Financial Services will finance and own the systems under the SunPower Access power purchase agreement program, which allows customers to take advantage of the environmental and financial benefits of solar power with no upfront capital costs. The solar electricity will be competitively priced against retail rates, providing customers a long-term hedge against rising peak power prices. Construction of the projects is scheduled to begin in February and be completed by the end of the year. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

The five solar projects are:
  • Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc., Ontario, California: A 2.3-megawatt rooftop solar power system at the Toyota Motor Sales, USA Ontario Parts Center. The new system will be the largest single-roof solar power installation in the United States.
  • HP, San Diego: A one-megawatt rooftop system serving an eight-building printing technology R&D facility. The project will use the patented SunPower T10 Solar Roof Tile commercial roof system, a non-penetrating solar system that tilts at a 10-degree angle, to increase energy capture.
  • Agilent Technologies, Santa Rosa, California: A one-megawatt solar tracking system installed atop a canopy structure in the Agilent campus parking lot, providing both shade in the lot and solar electric power for the facility.
  • Lake County, California: Ground-mounted solar systems at three sites, serving a correctional facility in Lakeport and two wastewater treatment plants in Lakeport and Clearlake, totaling 2.4 megawatts. The project will provide 85 percent of the power required by the county's correctional facility.
  • Rancho California Water District, Murrieta, California: A one-megawatt ground-mounted system, covering 10 acres. The project will use the patented SunPower T20 Tracker, which follows the sun throughout the day and delivers up to 30 percent more energy than traditional fixed-tilt ground systems.
"Aggregating several projects into one portfolio gives us financial scale to realize the advantages of project finance structuring," explained Kevin Walsh, managing director and leader of renewable energy at GE Energy Financial Services. "In addition, this transaction diversifies our renewable energy portfolio with more solar assets and supports ecomagination, GE's program to help its customers meet their environmental challenges while expanding its own portfolio of cleaner energy products." "Our partnership with GE Energy Financial Services began in 2006, when we started work on Portugal's Serpa Solar Power Plant, one of the largest solar installations in the world," said Tom Werner, chief executive officer of SunPower. "We are proud to be working with GE again to offer our customers a uniquely efficient and cost-competitive process for realizing the financial savings and environmental benefits of solar power."

The five projects combined will avoid 8.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions in the first year of operation, demonstrating the growing leadership of companies in California to use solar power to address the rising cost of energy and the impact of greenhouse gases on the environment. In addition, over 30,000 California homeowners are now employing residential solar systems to reduce home utility costs and improve the environment. These actions are key to achieving the goals of the California Solar Initiative, the country's largest solar program. Dubbed the "Million Solar Roofs Plan" by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the initiative provides incentives that lower the cost of installing solar power systems. The goals of the $3.2 billion program are to create 3,000 megawatts of clean solar power - 5 percent of the state's total need - during the next decade, avoid construction of dozens of fossil-fuel peaking power plants and the greenhouse gases they would emit, and lower solar costs through mass production.

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