/* Google Analytics */

Monday, September 13, 2010

A completely different Akeena

Anyone who lives in the South Bay has probably seen or heard from Akeena. The company occupies a former car dealership in Los Gatos, and has been aggressively promoting sales workshops at our local wine bar. I kept telling my wife we should go, but apparently now it’s too late.

Last May, Akeena agreed to effectively become an arm of Westinghouse, which didn’t actually have to put up any money to buy the company. Instead of selling “Akeena” solar panels, the company agreed to sell its future panels under the Westinghouse brand, including those it’s already selling at the Lowe’s home improvement warehouses. Akeena Solar, Inc. is now doing business as (d/b/a) Westinghouse Solar.

(Akeena’s already-distressed stock has drifted off into penny-stock land, which will allow Westinghouse to eventually buy the company for less than 5% of what it was worth at its peak.)

Now two different blogs have reported that Akeena is getting out of the installation business to (it claims) avoid competing with dealers. As PV-tech reports:
"Expanding our channels to include authorized dealers in California will accelerate the growth of our distribution business," said Barry Cinnamon, chief executive officer of Westinghouse Solar. "California is the largest state in the country for solar products, accounting for approximately 50 percent of the U.S. market… As we transition to a distribution model in California and sign up new dealers, we will continue to focus on securing new distribution partnerships and adding dealers around the country. We will honor all outstanding installation obligations, and in many cases expect to work with new Westinghouse Solar dealers to take over our remaining backlog of California installation projects."
When GreentechMedia reported on the shift last week, it was generally optimistic. Akeena had already exited installation elsewhere in the US, because it was competing with its installers. However, as it also reported:
A strategic shift like this, however, also means layoffs. Employees said that began today.
Alas, no more sales seminars at the wine bar, and one less large-scale California installer. Some 19 months ago, Borrego Solar got out of residential installation, selling its California and Massachusetts operations to Vermont-based groSolar for an unspecified amount.

So according to a 2009 analysis, that’s two of the four largest California residential installers changing hands in the past two years. Only SolarCity and REC Solar are bigger in the state: while I’d like to say that’s the end of it, clearly more consolidation is coming to the installation industry — not just to panel manufacturing.

Update, Sept 14: Akeena later sold their installation backlog to Real Goods Solar. 

No comments: