One of the largest independent power producer (IPPs) in the United States, NRG, provides power for the wholesale power markets with more than 50 GW of conventional installed capacity. More recently, under outspoken CEO David Crane, the company has made a name for itself in renewables, with approximately 2.5 GW of solar PV, concentrated solar thermal, and wind capacity. NRG also made headlines recently with a reshuffling of its business units: NRG Business (focused on conventional wholesale energy including nuclear, coal, and gas power plants), NRG Renew (focused on large-scale renewables), and NRG Home (focused on distributed generation [DG] and energy services for residential customers).
The company has relied on both organic growth as well as a series of acquisitions to fuel its DG offerings, including Dominion Resources and solar PV provider Rooftop Diagnostics, which expands the company’s customer base – particularly in the Northeast – and its expertise in residential systems. These acquisitions underscore the growing opportunity presented by DG – systems that provide power onsite or at the distribution level of the grid.
Power in the Wild
What’s more surprising is NRG’s acquisition of Goal Zero, a privately held manufacturer of portable chargers and solar PV consumer products. Based in Utah, Goal Zero supplies unique niches of outdoor/off-grid enthusiasts that need power in the remote, challenging regions in which they travel. The company effectively markets itself like Red Bull, touting the X-Games: “Zero Apathy, Zero Regrets, and Zero Boundaries is our mission. Goal Zero is our name.” The company’s numerous ambassadors keep it real by leading expeditions to Kyrgyzstan or photographing surfers in Iceland. They power their laptops with batteries recharged by the Goal Zero portable charger (the Sherpa Power Pack), and they blog at night with light from the Goal Zero solar lantern. The portable chargers can be charged via car adapters, a wall outlet, or solar panels provided by Goal Zero.
The company’s products are sold through retail partners such as REI, Cabela’s, other sporting goods stores around the country, and online. And by all measures, to use the vernacular, they appear to be crushing it. With 100 employees, the company ranked #9 on Inc.’s 500 list of fastest-growing private companies in 2013, with 3-year sales growth of 16,981%.
This is a big move for NRG and takes DG to a whole new level. The appeal to NRG goes beyond the extreme adventure lifestyle to cell phone charging stations (think airports, stadiums, convention centers, malls, etc.) and potentially to off-grid living in the developing world. I profiled Goal Zero in my Solar Photovoltaic Consumer Products report, along with Oregon’s Grape Solar, which sells similar products. There I observed that large corporations have been circling the waters to get into the portable power/off-grid lighting niche through acquisition, but I was mostly thinking Panasonic, Schneider, and other consumer electronics companies – not the third-largest U.S. energy IPP. NRG just went super DG, and we can expect many more to follow suit.
Tags: Distributed energy, Energy Storage, Mergers & Acquisitions, Renewable Energy, Smart Energy Program
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