Solar power adoption would be a lot more widespread if it was offered by established chains like Wal-Mart or Target. Imagine browsing through the aisles...you can get towels, Cheez-Itz, cat food, and solar panels.
It's not likely that the solar installation chain Solar Universe will ever achieve the same kind of ubiquity as Wal-Mart, but it's working on it. Solar Universe announced Tuesday morning that it has closed a $7 million Series B round led by RockPort Capital Partners. To celebrate, the company is shaking up its management team. Kevin Daughtery, former VP of Operations at Solar City, is joining Solar Universe (that’s right, he’s upgrading from a solar city to a solar UNIVERSE!) as EVP of Operations, and Laurie Anthony Baggio, formerly of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, comes on board as the new Chief Development Officer.
Founded in 2007 by Joe Bono and based out of Livermore, Calif., Solar Universe operates a multi-state network of solar installation franchises that includes 17 partners serving more than 800 customers throughout California, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana.
The idea takes an interesting approach to mainstreaming solar power. Seeking to establish a nationwide brand presence, the company takes a sort of cookie-cutter approach to spreading solar adoption by setting up franchise partners with a pre-established business model and marketing plans. Solar Universe handles the product details and distribution, training and sales, and customer financing. Hopeful franchise partners need only have $100,000 in liquid capital and a net worth of $300,000 to get started.
No word on whether Solar Universe manages the peskier issues with permitting and regulations, as that tends to be where solar installers get hit the hardest.
Joe Bono’s outlook on the future of solar is positive but realistic: “Renewable energy and solar is the future, and getting to it will be expensive,” he said in a blog post Monday evening. “So was the Industrial Revolution, and going from wagon trains to railroads, and the Pony Express to the telegraph. Toilets were once options in houses, not mainstays. Stay committed. Develop controlled incentives—the industry still needs them, and will have a difficult time without them.”
RockPort appears to agree with the unique franchise approach: "With solar now a viable option for most homes and businesses, Solar Universe's approach for training and supporting locally owned and operated solar installers will help launch new solar businesses and ensure a high quality customer experience anywhere in North America,” said RockPort Principal Abe Yokell in a prepared statement. “We believe its suite of solutions enables local entrepreneurs to perform at the highest levels, and will create explosive growth while creating thousands of green collar jobs."
Bono says that the company will use the funds to hire some 20 new employees, expand the company’s U.S. reach, and enhance its product offerings.
Image source: SolarUniverse.com