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Utah company acquires Sebastopol's Solmetric

  • The SunEye device, which measures shading patterns and assess potential solar energy, is shown in this handout photo from Solmetric. (Solmetric)

A Utah solar power company announced a deal Thursday to acquire Solmetric Corp., a Sebastopol company that develops photovoltaic installation instruments and software.

Solmetric will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vivint Solar, a Provo, Utah company that designs, installs and maintains solar energy systems.

Financial terms were not disclosed. All Solmetric employees will continue to be based in Sebastopol, said Willard McDonald, co-founder of Solmetric. McDonald will become vice president of technology development at Vivant Solar.

“We’re really excited,” McDonald said. “This enables us to really have a tight relationship with one of our key users of our product.”

Vivint Solar is the second-largest residential solar installer in the nation, said Kady Cooper, public relations director at Vivant. It has about 1,000 employees, with about 25 employees at Solmetric in Sebastopol.

Founded in 2005 by McDonald and a fellow ex-Agilent Technologies engineer, Mark Galli, Solmetric develops instruments and software used to design solar power systems.

About half of the Solmetric employees are former Agilent engineers, McDonald said.

“A lot of our values and business philosophy and engineering comes from our experience at Agilent, building test equipment there,” McDonald said.

Solmetric created SunEye, a handheld device that measures shading patterns and assesses the amount of solar energy available at installation sites.

“It enables people to position (the panels) optimally, to avoid shadows and predict how much energy the system will produce over the year,” McDonald said.

Its PV Designer software allows installers to design the most efficient solar power systems for individual sites.

Consolidation in the solar industry has been a trend in recent years. In 2009 and 2010, while the home construction markets were declining, many electricians, roofers and carpenters got into the solar installation market, McDonald said. After a flurry of new small businesses opened, many were gobbled up by larger companies that grew into national players.

But unlike other mergers, Solmetric will retain its existing sales contracts and distribution partnerships, McDonald said.

“Other companies have bought vendors and shut them off from the industry,” McDonald said. “Vivant Solar is doing it in a much more friendly, positive way.”

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