Having developed a strong relationship with Vista Solar, Uesugi Farms selected the solar vendor to transform the unusable land into an energy-generating asset. Vista Solar secured a zero-down operating lease that allowed Uesugi Farms to be cash-flow positive from day one, and Vista Solar designed and installed a 792 kW solar system that could operate in the harsh flood-plain environment. In the first year alone, the system is expected to produce enough energy to save Uesugi Farms over $115,000, and the total savings over twenty-five years is projected to be more than $2.6 million. With solar keeping more money in the budget, Uesugi Farms can invest in other business priorities while being protected from consistently increasing utility rates. Thanks to a plot of land where nothing would grow, solar energy is now powering Uesugi Farms towards a brighter future.
A SOLAR INSPIRATION
In the agriculture business, every acre is precious. But after several unsuccessful attempts to grow crops in the southwestern section of Uesugi Farms’ land, it became clear that the land was simply unusable. “Even the weeds have trouble growing back there because they’re just drowning in water,” said Aiello. However, the general manager had an inspiration. While the excess of water made growing crops impossible, a solar power system could function just fine. Aiello had already researched solar power and other renewable energy options such as hydrogen fuel cells and wind power for several years. The long, successful track record of solar power had earned his confidence, and the timing, financing, and the right solar vendor finally all came together in 2012.
A TRUSTWORTHY PARTNER
Vista Solar had been in touch with Uesugi Farms for more than a year and had developed one of the most essential elements of business: trust. “They were honest. They had integrity. They really took the time to educate us. They showed us how solar works, how the financing works, and how the incentives play into it,” said Aiello. Furthermore, Vista Solar found the right financial partner and solar incentives so that Uesugi Farms could go solar with zero capital outlay and be cash-flow positive from the start. With the financing
secured, Vista Solar designed and installed a ground-mounted solar solution ideal for the harsh agricultural environment. The solar system soars six feet overhead with rigorously tested Canadian Solar modules generating electricity while shading 28 Refusol, 3-phase, transformerless, string inverters mounted on the solar supports below. Pole-mounted transformers were used to push the solar electricity nearly a mile back to the packaging and chiller buildings on the property – making it one of the longest continuous private wire runs in CA.
A LONG-TERM ENERGY ASSET
Finishing on budget in February 2013, Vista Solar completed the 792 kW solar system and started spinning the farm’s electric meters backwards. The system is expected to produce 1.25 million kWh in the first year and offset 91.5% of Uesugi Farms’ electrical demand. This energy will provide approximately $138,000 of utility savings in the initial year of operation, and it is forecast to save the company more than $2.6 million over the next twenty-five years. That’s a powerful hedge against volatile utility prices, which allows Uesugi
Farms to keep more of its hard-earned money focused on its business. No longer a liability, the southwestern corner of Uesugi Farms is now prime solar power real estate.