How does the solar industry spread the word about the benefits and ease of installing solar on residential rooftops?

Well, I just spent 30 minutes speaking with NBA (and Grateful Dead) hall-of-famer Bill Walton and new NRG Home Solar spokesman -- and I'm ready for my solar installation.

Never mind that I'm a renter with a very small electric bill who lives in a cabin entirely shaded by redwoods; sign me up anyway. I'll deal with the landlord and the redwoods another time. For the moment, I'm listening to Walton.

If Walton's reality distortion field can work on this jaded reporter, NRG Energy may be right to bet that it will work on more reasonable consumers. And unlike many celebrity mouthpieces, Walton is well briefed and, not surprisingly, very vocal and passionate about his new role as solar poster boy.

In March of this year, NRG Energy acquired Roof Diagnostics Solar (RDS), the eighth-largest solar installer in the U.S. The 475-employee Roof Diagnostics was one of the top ten installers in 2013, with offices in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut, as well as plans to expand to California. SolarCity is the leader in the space with a market share of greater than 25 percent. 

Walton is a two-time NBA Champion, two-time NBA All-Star, and NBA Hall of Fame inductee. He has been named one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time. He also attended more than 600 Grateful Dead concerts.

Walton told GTM, "My choices in life are based on people and purpose and programs," and he said that the people he has met at NRG Solar align with his values. "The solution to all of our problems in life is education," said Walton, "and I'm here to shine the light and spread the message."

Walton spoke of solar as being good personal economics, good public policy, and a way of "democratizing innovation," as well as being just "common sense" that "allows us to be kind to Mother Earth." Walton is earnest about his role, stating, "My opportunity, my purpose is to help spread a message of hope." He adds, "We get beat down, feeling we don't have any say. Home solar allows us to be in the game."

"We have a responsibility to the next generation," said Walton -- and with the kind of "science and economics backing solar -- it's the biggest no-brainer in the history of the world."    

Kelcy Pegler Jr. of NRG Home Solar said, "We wake up every day obsessed with getting solar on more homes."

Walton described his commitment to the cause as unequivocal, stating, "I am all in." He sees himself speaking across the country, talking to the press, talking to consumers and setting an example in terms of "how I make my choices and what I do what I do with my life."
"I have a chance to make a difference," he said, adding that home solar combines the elements of happiness, health, family, hope and team.

Walton notes that his San Diego home is currently being solarized in order to help power the very large subwoofers that are part of his Meyer Sound system.

According to Pegler, “Bill’s remarkable success on and off the court is a result of his passion, dedication and perseverance. We believe these admirable traits make him the ideal voice of a movement to change the way homeowners think about their energy use.”

Past solar marketing efforts have included:

  • Yingli Solar's continued sponsorship of the World Cup
  • Trina Solar was a sponsor of actor/racer Patrick Dempsey's (of Grey’s Anatomy) Dempsey Racing Team. 
  • REC Solar got some unexpected publicity when the firm's Director of Business Development, Ryan Park, got the "First Impression Rose" on The Bachelorette.
  • A few year's ago, SolarWorld enlisted famous fictional oilman and genie-owner Larry Hagman to endorse its products. Hagman (1931-2012) was a solar power owner and advocate.  

The U.S. installed almost 800 megawatts of residential solar in 2013, according to the 2013 U.S. Solar Market Insight report.

NRG Home Solar's Pegler told GTM, "Bill Walton is an exceptional person who brings mainstream credibility to solar."

And in the words of Mr. Walton, "Throw it down, big man, throw it down!"

A few other choice Walton quotes, while we're at it:

“Come on, that was no foul! It may be a violation of all the basic rules of human decency, but it’s not a foul.”

“Mick Jagger is in better shape than far too many NBA players. It’s up in the air whether the same can be said of Keith Richards.”