merging in 2011 as a subsidiary of Vivint, an American company specializing in home automation and security, Solar Vivint primarily focused on providing photovoltaic energy generation systems for residential clients. The company cleverly incorporated solar power into its Smart Home product line, enabling customers to effectively track and manage their energy consumption.
In 2012, a significant event in the company’s journey occurred when it gained the interest of the influential multinational private equity firm, the Blackstone Group, ultimately acquiring controlling interests. Post-acquisition, the installer branched out on its own and rapidly grew to become the second-largest residential solar installer in the United States.
By 2017, Vivian announced the installation of more than 100,000 PV panel systems for residential customers, contributing to an impressive total of over 634 MW of residential systems.
However, the company faced several challenges over the years. In 2019, Viviant agreed to pay nearly $122,000 to settle allegations of deceptive sales practices in New Jersey. Additionally, it entered into a $1.95 million settlement with the state of New York in 2020 over similar accusations. The installer was further scrutinized by the nonprofit watchdog, Campaign for Accountability, which called for an investigation into rooftop solar companies in 2018.
The company's challenges were further amplified in 2020 as a result of a disappointing Q4 performance and an economic downturn, leading to plummeting share prices and rising costs.
In an unexpected turn of events later that year, Sunrun, a leading residential solar, battery storage, and energy services provider announced its plans to acquire Vivint. The all-stock deal, valued at about $1.46 billion, saw Sunrun shareholders retain about 64% of the combined company.
The Solar Vivint Portfolio: Unpacking Solar Products They Offered
The installer offered a range of services and products throughout its existence. They provided two brands of PV panels: Hyundai, known for its cost-effectiveness and durability, and Longi, praised for its exceptional performance despite being slightly pricier.
In addition to panels, Vivent offered solar batteries, namely Tesla Powerwall and LG Chem RESU, which stored excess electricity for use during periods with less sunlight or power outages. The company assisted customers in determining whether batteries were suitable for their specific needs.
When it came to inverters, the installer provided two types: SolarEdge single-phase inverters and Enphase microinverters. To ensure customer satisfaction, the company offered a comprehensive 25-year production guarantee covering PV panels, batteries, and inverters, including compensation for underperformance.
Post Mortem of Solar Vivint: Important Lessons for the Solar World
This story underscores the significant role of customer service and transparency in shaping a company's future. The installer found itself embroiled in a web of lawsuits and grievances from both clients and regulatory bodies. Accusations ranged from misleading sales tactics to falling short of the promised savings and even breaching consumer protection laws. These incidents spotlight the need for solar businesses to place customer satisfaction at the heart of their operations, ensuring ethical, transparent dealings.
Moreover, staying abreast with technological advancements and adapting to the ever-changing market landscape is critical. Vivint grappled with the outdatedness of its panels, causing a ripple effect on its lease/PPA offerings. It serves as a reminder for solar companies to keep pace with the latest innovations, invest in research and development, and enhance the efficacy of their products and services.
In retrospect, the installer’s saga provides valuable lessons for the industry. Emphasizing customer service, practicing transparency, fostering innovation, and embracing change are key components to sustaining a competitive edge in this rapidly evolving sector.