SAN RAFAEL -- Real Goods Solar Inc. (Nasdaq: RSOL), a solar energy systems integrator started in the North Bay, and Alteris Renewables Inc. today announced a deal to merge, giving Real Goods a large foothold in the Northeast.

In the deal, Real Goods would issue 8 million shares, or more based on performance, to purchase all the stock of Wilton, Conn.-based Earth Friendly Energy Group Holdings, LLC, which does business as Alteris. The deal is set to close in the third quarter, pending approval of Real Goods shareholders, of which the majority is Boulder, Colo.-based Gaiam Inc. Gaiam intends to vote in favor of the merger, according to the announcement.

Real Goods Solar President John Schaeffer, who started the company in 1978 in Hopland, would become president of the residential division of the merged company.

"Together, we are a much stronger company with a better ability to compete in the market that we established when Real Goods Solar sold the very first solar panel to the public in 1978,” Mr. Schaeffer said. "We can leverage our complementary expertise and geographies to accelerate the adoption of clean energy across the country. With the U.S. solar market projected to grow fivefold from 2010 to 2015, our company has plenty of opportunity ahead of it."

The new chief executive officer of Real Goods Solar is Colorado resident and renewable energy advocate Bill Yearsley. A veteran of 40 mergers and acquisitions deals, he negotiated the Alteris merger, according to Real Goods Solar. Previously, he was chairman and CEO of the Construction and Aggregate Group and an executive director of Redland PLC.

Real Goods Solar Chief Financial Officer Erik Zech would stay in that role. Ron French, head of Alteris’ commercial division would become president of the commercial division of the merged company. Alteris CEO Steven Kaufman would move to a board role, as would Alteris' board Chairman David Belluck of Riverside Partners, Alteris' controlling investor. Gaiam Chairman Jirka Rysavy will continue as Real Goods Solar’s chairman.

“The Northeast and the West represent the two fastest growing markets for solar installations in the country, driven by high energy prices and government incentives in each region,” said Mr. Kaufman.

Real Goods Solar has installed more than 7,300 home photovoltaic systems, as well as arrays for commercial, winery, education, government and institutional clients, in California and Colorado. Alteris has installed more than 4,000 systems in the past three decades in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

At 11:16 a.m. Pacific Time, the price of Real Goods Solar stock was $2.68 a share, a 20-cent or 8 percent increase from the Tuesday closing price.