NRG Energy Aims Big by Going Small with Personal Power

Aug. 14, 2014
NRG Energy is making a move into the personal power market with the purchase of Goal Zero. The acquisition gives the energy giant entry into the potentially vast market in small solar chargers for cell phones and other gadgets.

Personal power – clothes, backpacks, hand held cubes that generate solar electricity –  has moved out of ‘someday’ into ‘now,’ driven largely by the need for cell phone charging. So it’s no surprise to see NRG Energy’s move into the market.

The energy giant known for its ownership of the big stuff – 52 GW of grid power – has reached an agreement to buy Goal Zero, a company that specializes in the ultimate form of distributed generation: personal solar products. The acquisition will give NRG Energy a play into what is likely to become a vast mass market in small solar chargers.

Based in Salt Lake City, the 100-employee Goal Zero designs and  manufactures portable solar power and battery-pack products and accessories.  Forbes named Goal Zero to its 100 most promising companies earlier this year.

“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,” said David Crane, NRG’s president and CEO. “The acquisition of Goal Zero – the best company in its field – aligned alongside our established system power franchise and our fast-growing residential solar business, dramatically expands our reach, enabling us to serve every American who desires to be part of the clean energy future.”

Like many companies that specialize in personal solar generation, Goal Zer0 initially focused on poor rural areas without electricity, in its case sub-Saharan Africa. Its personal power products have since been picked up for use in the North America, especially by campers and hunters.

“Our mission is to put reliable power in the hands of every human on earth,” said Robert Workman, founder and CEO of Goal Zero. “Being part of NRG allows us to reach this goal in a much more powerful way. Both Goal Zero and NRG have similar give-back initiatives. Both companies have proven track records of helping those in need with services and products, whether it is lighting a hut in Congo or a school in Haiti.”

The acquisition will position NRG Energy to marketl across the power sales spectrum – from wholesale and retail markets to residential solar and distributed generation to personal power. The company plans to cross-sell  between its grid power, residential solar and personal power.

“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,” NRG said in a press statement.

The acquisition  is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory clearances, and is expected to be finalized in the third quarter. NRG Energy did not disclose the acquisition price.

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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