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Vivint Makes Leap from Home Security to Solar Leasing

<p>The company has been focused on home automation and security since its founding in 1999, but is expanding its reach into the alternative energy market, funding 2,400 solar installations across four states.</p>

Vivint, a home automation and security company, has announced a new solar division and residential solar leasing services. The launching of a new division, Vivint Solar, included a financing commitment of $75 million in renewable energy tax equity from a subsidiary of U.S. Bancorp.

Select customers began using the solar leasing service in July and the fund will finance a projected pipeline of 2,400 residential solar installations in New Jersey, Utah, Hawaii and New York.

Founded in 1999, Vivint s grown its home security business to a current size of 5,000 employees. The company manages its own sales and operations, installation, customer service, and professional services.

"We see solar as an easy additional service to better serve our customers," said Todd Pedersen, CEO and Founder of Vivint. "We considered partnering [for leasing services] but already are highly efficient in installations. We have more capability to scale and expand the market."

For the residential solar leasing program, Vivint Solar offers customers the service via power purchasing agreements as a way to reduce up-front, capital costs. For the hardware, Vivint is working with microinverter provider Enphase Energy and mounting system supplier Zep Solar.

While the solar industry is facing consolidation and current political and market challenges, Vivint Solar will still compete with formidable direct-to-consumer players such SolarCity, SunPower, and Sungevity, among others.

Launching the solar division also follows an earlier expansion by Vivint into home energy management services. In February 2011, Vivint began integrating home energy control services -- such as remote thermostat control, smart appliance integration, and lighting controls -- with its central panel for security surveillance and monitoring.

The home energy management market has faced its own struggles with Google and Microsoft backing out of web-based energy monitoring products earlier this summer. But others, such as Control4, iControl, and 4Home (purchased last year by Motorola), have sufficient investment backing to continue for now.

Still, Pedersen is confident his company can compete, "We have a robust offering…and with more than 500,000 paying customers, we haven't felt to the need to raise outside money."

Tanguy Serra, president of Vivint Solar, says 55 percent of current Vivint customers surveyed are willing to add new services beyond home security offerings. With the integration of residential solar generation and home energy management services -- as well tapping energy storage potential for EVs -- the "smart home" of the future is a target for Vivint's business model.

"[Solar energy] is big step for our long-term strategy" Serra said. "As solar feeds back into home, it creates a cheaper energy service for customers and can have a direct impact on the grid."

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