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Solar installer Real Goods Solar makes go at IPO

The Gaiam subsidiary wants to consolidate the market for solar installation, which is about half the cost of purchasing panels.

Real Goods Solar, which installs solar panels on homeowners' rooftops, filed paperwork on Thursday to go public with the goal of raising up to $57.5 million.

The company, now a subsidiary of environmental lifestyle company Gaiam, said it is the largest installer of grid-connected solar panels in California. It also operates in Colorado, where it is based.

The company was founded by John Schaeffer, who learned about solar electricity while living off-grid in a California commune in the 1970s.

It had revenues of almost $19 million last year. Including revenue from two installers it acquired, it had estimated 2007 revenue of $32.7 million and profits of $490,000.

The money it raises will be used for further expansion, which could include more acquisitions, it said in its S-1 form. One of its corporate goals is to consolidate the existing market for solar installers.

The solar market has been growing rapidly over the past few years, driven by supportive government incentives and growing interest among consumers in cleaner forms of electricity. Public solar panel makers have seen their stock prices go down significantly since the beginning of the year on fears of a shortage of silicon.

About half of the cost of purchasing solar panels is tied up in installation.

Real Goods Solar plans to list on the NASDAQ using the stock ticker symbol RSOL.