We are a leading residential and small commercial solar energy integrator. We offer turnkey services, including design, procurement, permitting, build-out, grid connection, financing referrals and warranty and customer satisfaction activities. Our solar energy systems use high-quality solar photovoltaic modules from manufacturers such as Sharp, Kyocera, Sanyo, and SunPower. We use proven technologies and techniques to help customers achieve meaningful savings by reducing their utility costs. In addition, we help customers lower their emissions output and reliance upon fossil fuel energy sources.
We have over 30 years of experience in residential solar energy, beginning with our sale in 1978 of the first solar photovoltaic, or PV, panels in the United States. We have sold a variety of solar products to more than 30,000 customers since our founding. Our focused customer acquisition approach and our efficiency in converting leads into customers enable us to have what we believe are low customer acquisition costs. We believe that our Real Goods brand has a national reputation for high quality customer service in the solar energy market, which leads to a significant number of word-of-mouth referrals and new customers. In addition, our majority shareholder, Gaiam, Inc., is a leader in the sustainable and renewable energy lifestyle market and has a base of over 10 million direct customers, providing us additional lead generation for potential solar energy customers. We also generate leads by selling solar and other renewable energy and sustainable living products and resources through our nationally distributed catalog and website, including books and DVDs on renewable energy and sustainable living, products for solar and other water heating, green building products and systems, air purification products, water conservation and purification products and other solar and sustainable living related products. Our Solar Living Center in Hopland features interactive demonstrations for renewable energy and environmentally sensible technologies and is the largest facility of its kind, with more than 2 million visitors since it opened in 1996.
We were incorporated in Colorado in 2008 as a successor to a business that began in 1978 and was privately held until 1991. Our predecessor became Real Goods Trading Corporation, which was publicly traded from 1991 to 2001 when it was acquired by Gaiam. Gaiam operated us essentially as a separate business (except for certain consolidated corporate functions) from 2001 to 2008, when operations were moved into our corporate entity, Real Goods Solar, Inc., upon its formation. We acquired Marin Solar in November 2007, Carlson Solar in January 2008, Independent Energy Systems (“IES”) in August 2008, and Regrid Power, Inc. (“Regrid Power”) in October 2008, together representing over 5,000 cumulative solar energy system installations as of the end of 2009.
Our goal is to continue to build on our industry-leading position and be the largest and most profitable residential solar energy integrator in the United States. We intend to pursue the following strategies to achieve this goal:
Enhance and leverage the Real Goods brand name to increase our market presence. We intend to enhance and leverage the Real Goods brand name and our reputation for customer service to continue to win business in existing markets and to expand into new markets in which our competitors have little or no brand recognition.
Expand into markets in which legislation and government incentives are favorable for solar energy. We plan to expand the geographic scope of our business as jurisdictions adopt new or improve existing incentive programs that enhance the economics of solar energy systems for a broader customer base. In addition to the $3.4 billion California Solar Initiative, or CSI, adopted in 2007, a number of states, including Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey and New York, have adopted legislation and incentives favorable to solar energy and other states are considering adopting such legislation and incentives. In late 2008, the federal investment tax credit was extended for eight years and the $2,000 cap on the credit for residential systems was removed. We believe that this tax credit will continue to stimulate the residential solar market on a national basis.
Consolidate the fragmented U.S. solar energy system installation market. The U.S. solar energy system installation market remains highly fragmented, with over 300 independent installers or integrators in California alone. We intend to continue our consolidation activities in order to penetrate new markets, expand our business and further enhance our national brand and leverage our national marketing programs. We plan to create economies of scale through our consolidation activities in order to increase our operating efficiencies, with a goal of improving our margins and profitability.
Expand our “community of customers” to enhance revenue and lower our customer acquisition costs. We intend to leverage the reputation for authenticity associated with our Real Goods brand to expand our “community of customers,” which cares deeply about solar energy and a renewable energy lifestyle and views us as the premier provider of products, services and support to enable this lifestyle. We plan to cross-market our wide array of energy-saving and carbon footprint-reducing products and services in addition to our solar energy systems, which we believe will enhance our revenue and create additional customer loyalty. We also intend to leverage our customer base to continue to provide us with new leads and referrals, which, in conjunction with our cross-marketing efforts, should allow us to continue to lower our customer acquisition costs.
Make a difference in the world. We intend to promote our solar energy systems and sustainable living resources as a way for individuals and communities to reduce their carbon footprint, eliminate U.S. dependence on foreign and fossil fuel-based energy sources and foster a culture of respect for the Earth and its natural resources for the benefit of future generations.