Van-Mulder Sheet Metal

Mitigating SMB risk through rooftop solar

Effectively running a small business is a full-time exercise in the risk management of external factors: macroeconomic conditions, business demand, labor cost and availability, and unpredictable operational costs.

Paul Steckel, President of San Francisco Bay Area-based Van-Mulder Sheet Metal understands this well. Out of its 23,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Hayward, California, Van-Mulder has provided high-end architectural sheet metal services for institutional, large-scale construction projects — from typical projects like flashing and sheet metal waterproofing systems installations to highly-technical specialty projects like the copper faḉade for San Francisco’s de Young museum.

For years, Paul wanted to gain control over Van-Mulder’s energy bill through rooftop solar, giving him one less variable to manage so he could focus on more risky aspects of running a successful manufacturing and contracting business. Equally important to Paul was his profound concern about climate change; he wanted Van-Mulder to lessen its environmental impact. But despite his interest in moving forward with solar, the financials were not penciling out.

That is, until he found Carbon Lighthouse. Our data-driven approach identified effective options for moving forward that made sense financially for Van-Mulder. And, backed by our financial guarantee, Paul knew he could finally realize his clean energy aspirations in a profitable way.

The Technicals

Unlike other solar providers, Carbon Lighthouse starts by looking at the problem rather than leading with the solution. Applying our unique Efficiency Production process to the Van-Mulder site, we first considered energy efficiency options, such as installing high-efficiency LEDs, but found that a rooftop solar-only solution was the most cost-effective option. In line with Paul’s commitment to climate action, he also asked us to design the system to compensate for a new electrical vehicle fleet he would charge at the facility

Here are some of the clean energy measures we implemented:

  • Installed a 68.3 kW rooftop ballasted rooftop system.
  • Engineered system in anticipation of future EV charging installation.
  • Installed integrated sensor package to enable active solar efficiency monitoring
  • Provided redundant monitoring of solar production to verify data streams against each other and ensure performance.
  • Aggregated metering – had 3 meters on property — physically tied into one meter but pursued special interconnection agreement with utility to offset holistic energy usage.

The Impact

  • Immediately cash-accretive.
  • Five year contract totaling $121,200 guaranteed savings, around $25,000 per year.
  • Offset client’s energy bill while eliminating more than 110,000 kWh of energy use annually. Over the duration of the contract, this will eliminate the carbon emissions equivalent of using 900 barrels of oil.
  • Enabled the the powering of new EV fleet with 100% clean energy.

A happy ending

Paul and his team were thrilled with the outcome of the rooftop solar project. Time is particularly valuable to a small business, and the Carbon Lighthouse team completed the work with minimal time commitment from Van-Mulder Sheet Metal and without any operational disruptions.

“I felt like that the Carbon Lighthouse team was very technically capable, personable and listened to my needs,” Paul said. “I felt like I was getting an engineering team that would look at the problem and offer a credible solution.”

That meant something coming from Paul, who is a licensed mechanical engineer.

Now, the Van-Mulder facility runs on the power of the sun, offsetting the company’s electric bill and guaranteeing this benefit for years to come. This also means Paul and his team have one less thing to worry about, as they continue to provide stellar sheet metal services to their own customers.

“I love to watch the energy meter spin backward,” Paul says.

ClientVan-Mulder Sheetmetal


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