Real Goods Solar

For over 30 years Real Goods has led the Sustainable Living market through sales, education and installation of solar and other renewable energy products.

Campbell, CA
Privately Held Company

For over 30 years Real Goods has led the Sustainable Living market through sales, education and installation of solar and other renewable energy products. As the original and most experienced solar installer, we are ideally positioned to install solar on your home or business. In fact, there has never been a better time to go solar! Rebates and tax incentives like those in Colorado and California have made solar power systems more affordable than ever!

As did many of his contemporaries in the 1960s and early 1970s, John Schaeffer, founder of Real Goods, experimented with an alternative lifestyle. After protracted exposure to nearly every strand of the lunatic fringe, he graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 1971 and moved to a commune called “Rainbow” outside of Boonville, California. There, in an isolated 290-acre mountain community, John pursued a picturesque life of enlightened self-sufficiency.

Despite the idyllic surroundings, John soon found that certain key elements of life were missing. After several years of reading bedtime stories to his children by the flickering light of a kerosene lamp, John began to squint. He grew tired of melted ice cream and lukewarm beer. He began to miss the creature comforts his family was lacking due to their “off-the-grid” lifestyle. He yearned for just a tiny amount of energy to strike a balance between the lifestyle he had grown up with and complete deprivation. In other words, John came to the realization that self-sufficiency was much more appealing as a concept than a reality.

Then he discovered 12-volt power. John hooked up an extra battery to his car that he charged while commuting to work, with just enough juice to power lights, a radio, and the occasional television broadcast. Despite his departure from a pure ascetic lifestyle, each and every time that Saturday Night Live aired, John’s home became the most popular place on the commune. Eventually, when the 12-hour community work days began to take their toll, John took a job as a computer operator in Ukiah, some 35 twisty miles from Boonville.

Once the word got out that John would be making the trek over the mountain to the “big city” daily, he became a one-man pick-up and delivery service, procuring the wood stoves, fertilizer, chicken wire, bone meal, gardening seeds, tools, and supplies needed for the commune. As a conscientious and naturally frugal person, John spent hours scrutinizing the hardware stores and home centers of Ukiah, searching for the best deals on the real goods needed for the communards’ close-to-the-earth lifestyle.

One day, while driving his VW bug back to the commune after a particularly vexing shopping trip, a thought occurred to John. “Wouldn’t it be great,” he mused, “if there was one store that sold all the products needed for independent, off-the-grid living, and sold them at fair prices?” The idea of Real Goods was born. The company thrived opening up retail stores and eventually morphed into a mail-order company.

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