Vicolo Wholesale goes solar with Lumen Energy

August 19, 2022
5 min read

Vicolo Pizza got its start like many great businesses do, by providing a unique product that customers crave. In 1997, CEO Eric Mount and his team of pizza lovers began selling their signature Corn Meal Crust Pizza to gourmet supermarkets in the Bay Area. Today, their products are sold across the nation. As proponents of natural and organic ingredients, sustainability comes naturally for Vicolo Pizza. Eric was already familiar with solar energy after installing a system on his home. But as the leadership team began exploring their shared desire to generate clean, reliable energy, commercial solar was proving more challenging to navigate than a simple residential installation.

Customer: Vicolo Wholesale

Industry: Food Manufacturing

Location: Hayward, CA

Utility: Pacific Gas & Electric

The challenge

Following years of steady growth, the necessity of dining at home during the pandemic increased the demand for Vicolo’s products by nearly 70% in 2020. As a frozen food manufacturer, Vicolo’s growth was triggering increasing utility expenses that Vicolo could not control. The logistics of manufacturing and distributing thousands of pizzas involved opening and closing dozens of freezer doors. Peak business hours coincide with afternoon high temperatures, resulting in high power loads. As commercial utility customers know, higher usage results in demand charges. At a time when Vicolo was experiencing rapid growth, PG&E’s higher afternoon base rate was eating into profits. Although business was booming, Vicolo’s facility in Hayward, California was hit with multiple price increases when they needed power the most.

Solar was the clear solution to address rising utility costs, but the prospect of going it alone was overwhelming. Eric soon realized that any installation would likely involve capital expenditures. Commercial solar installations are much larger than the average residential system; designing & engineering them requires professional expertise. Eric was already busy running his business, focusing on what he does best: increasing sales, new customers and the operations to support growth. Eric saw the value in finding a trusted, professional partner. Managing a traditional bid and installation process -  which would involve comparing bids, managing multiple contractors, applying for financing and permitting - was a significant undertaking that conflicted with the needs of their business.

Vicolo’s growth was triggering increasing utility expenses that Vicolo could not control.
The solution

Fortunately for Eric, Lumen Energy had already applied it’s breakthrough technology to remotely characterize all of the buildings in Hayward, CA. Lumen Energy had already determined the optimal system for Vicolo’s facilities, and when they met, Eric realized many of the early complicated steps had already been handled!  Eric received an actionable, turnkey offer of a new rooftop solar system - an opportunity to immediately generate new revenue. It initially sounded too good to be true. . . Yet Eric quickly realized that Lumen Energy was prepared to deliver the benefits of solar without the heachache.

By going solar, Eric was able to reduce operational expenditures while furthering their commitment to a healthier planet. Even better, Vicolo could use our Lumen Energy Cash Incentive to pay for a new roof for one of their buildings.  Lumen’s solar system generates the most power just when Vicolo would have been hit by increased rates and demand charges.  

PG&E is proposing an 18% rate increase in 2023, the largest proposed rate hike in the nation. In addition to reducing the peak load and the overall electricity drawn from the grid, the power purchase agreement’s predictability protects Vicolo from PG&E rate hikes in the future.

An easy process

Lumen Energy took care of the entire process from start to finish. First, Lumen’s software connected to the utility to verify the precise economics before and after solar, for every hour of the year. Lumen’s software calculated the optimal system size, tilt, and position on the roof to maximize savings. Lumen worked with Vicolo to assess the cost effectiveness of battery storage, but ultimately decided against it to optimize the savings of the installation. Prior to installation, roof suitability was carefully inspected. When it was determined that one building needed a roof upgrade, Lumen facilitated with a contractor Eric approved.

A normally challenging step of commercial solar installation is permitting. But it wasn’t a hassle for Vicolo Wholesale. Lumen secured permits from the utility and city, taking the pain out of the process.

Next came the highlight of the journey: installation of the solar panels. Lumen selected the most qualified and experienced installer from six competitive bids. Our solar installation experts navigated the different formats and technical details of each installer quote to find the perfect fit for Vicolo’s economic and facility goals. Where was the Vicolo team during all of this? Operating their growing business, of course. Lumen’s team of solar energy experts, project specialists and customer service representatives handled every step of the installation, from start to finish. Vicolo was kept abreast of progress with customized online updates.

Lumen Energy’s turnkey solar package
  • Data-driven system design
  • Cost-focused evaluation of battery storage and other add-ons
  • Verification of roof suitability
  • Selection of a qualified installer from competitive bids
  • Permitting and paperwork
  • Progress updates every step of the way
The results

Lumen installed a 125 kilowatt (kW) system divided among two buildings at Vicolo’s headquarters.  With Lumen’s Energy Cash incentive of $18,546, Vicolo was able to resurface the roof on one of their buildings.  A new, white roof surprised Vicolo employees with a cooler indoor climate as solar radiation from summer sunshine was either absorbed by the rooftop panels or reflected away, lowering energy usage altogether.

Keeping in mind Vicolo’s primary concern of avoiding any business interruption, Lumen even used trenchless drilling to connect the two buildings. This smart solution kept the parking lot usable for the entire installation, and kept business running without inconvenience.

The net effect of Vicolo’s 125 kW of highly efficient solar panels is to reduce costs by roughly 15% every year. In addition, Vicolo now has a predictable rate of increase for the next 25 years, insulating them from PG&E rate increases.  

$107,000 Annual electricity expenditure
$18,581 New Income generated by Lumen Energy for Vicolo
5,514,000 kWh of electricity over 25 years
2,889,336 Pounds of CO2 avoided
$98,806 Lifetime savings

Overhead shot of Vicolo's roof before installation
Photo of Vicolo's roof during installation

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