Solar Installers Are Hot Ticket, Raising Nearly $100M in Past 7 Months

Venture capitalists aren’t anxious to back solar panel makers, but it’s a whole different story if you’re in the installation business.

Since last June, VCs have invested about $99 million in at least five solar panel installation companies. RockPort Capital Partners is the latest to jump into the sector, leading a $7 million Series B round in Solar Universe. (The round closed in December, but it was officially announced today.)

RockPort Principal Abe Yokell (pictured) will take a seat on the board, according to a press statement.

What differentiates Solar Universe from other solar installers is that it is a pure play solar franchisor. The company has 21 franchisees in six states and expects the total to rise to 45 this year.

Chief Executive Joe Bono tells peHUB that the Livermore, Calif.-based company became cash flow positive in 2009 and profitable last year. So far, it boasts 850 residential and small business installations and hopes to more than double the number this year.

Solar Universe provides its franchisees with software for sales and quotations, training and group buying to lock in discounts.

The venture injection will provide growth capital, says Bono. Solar Universe’s previous financing includes a 2008 angel round of $650,000 with investors including Kremens.

With the new money, “we think we can slingshot past the competition,” says Bono.

The company has no shortage of competitors. In June, solar financing company SunRun won $55 million in a Sequoia Capital-led deal that existing investors Accel Partners and Foundation Capital joined.

A month later, installer SolarCity collected $21.5 million in a transaction led by Mayfield Fund and supported by existing investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson, DBL Investors and Generation Investment Management.

Then in December, solar panel installer Sungevity raised $15 million in financing from investors Greener Capital, Firelake Capital and BrightPath Capital.

Clean Power Finance reportedly raised money from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Google Ventures after raising $6.9 million in January 2010. The January deal was co-led by Claremont Creek Ventures and Clean Pacific Ventures, and joined by prior investors Sand Hill Angels and Gary Kremen. Clean Power Finance supplies sales and marketing software and online services to installers.