Goal Zero acquired by NRG Enegry

Learn how the outdoor industry helped this small start-up catch the eye of one of the nation's largest energy providers.
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Portable solar energy brand Goal Zero announced Thursday that is being acquired by NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG), one of the nation’s largest energy providers.

Financial details of the transaction were undisclosed.

The deal is another validation for one of the outdoor industry’s fastest-growing sectors: portable power. Founded in 2009, Goal Zero officials said the Salt Lake City-based company (which plans to remain there) had grown its annual revenues nearly 17,000 percent in the past three years and now employs about 100 people. The company reported about $35 million in annual revenue for 2013.

Related: Click here to read our Retail College issue on how to sell portable power at outdoor retail.

For NRG, which operates everything from coal and nuclear plants to large-scale wind turbine and solar panel farms, the acquisition extends a recent company push into more residential and consumer “clean-power” solutions.

Goal Zero “enables us to serve every American who desires to be part of the clean energy future,” NRG President and CEO David Crane said. “The ultimate manifestation of distributed clean generation is personal power. Only about one in four Americans are themselves homeowners, but every American has a need for personal energy free from the tether of plug and cord.”

Sales of Goal Zero and other portable power brands (Brunton, Solio and Powertraveller, to name a few) continue to rise at outdoor retail as more people bring smartphones, tablets, GPS, lighting and cameras into the wilderness to record and share their pursuits. Outdoor enthusiasts were some of the earliest adopters of the renewable energy options for both their portability and nod to the environment.

Related: Click here to read our interview with Brunton President Erron Sorensen on the rise of portable power outdoors.

While Goal Zero originally was conceived to address humanitarian challenges — helping provide free energy in sub-Saharan Africa — officials noted that the products “quickly won wide acceptance in the outdoor and adventure sports community” to spur company growth.

Now working with a much larger NRG team, the brand can expand on those original goals, said Goal Zero founder Robert Workman.

“Our mission is to put reliable power in the hands of every human on earth,” he said. “Being part of NRG, a company that is similarly aligned, allows us to reach this goal in a much more powerful way.”

Workman will continue in a supportive role with Goal Zero, while Lee Fromson (a former REI senior vice president, who joined the brand in April) will move into the leading role for the brand.

"We're really going to start fine-tuning our products for many different, specific end uses," Fromson told SNEWS. Goal Zero plans to continue its focus on portable solar energy with efforts toward efficiency, cost, size and education, Fromson said. He added that NRG likely will have "thousands of ideas for the company to sift through" for personal power innovations and new technologies.

Goal Zero will be part of the NRG Home group focused on consumer energy solutions, harnessing “cross-selling opportunities between system power, residential solar and personal power,” officials said. “NRG expects to combine product and service offerings; for example, educating Goal Zero customers about the possibilities of rooftop solar and combining portable Goal Zero solar products with NRG’s retail electricity offers.”

The specialty outdoor retailer will benefit "tremendously" from the deal, Fromson said. "They're going to see a much accelerated product cycle that allows them to serve customers' needs on a more timely basis."

--David Clucas

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