Joseph Abboud goes 70 percent solar


Joseph Abboud has gone solar.

The suit maker’s only manufacturing facility, a 272,000 square-foot mill once powered with coal and then with oil, is now using rooftop solar to generate about 70 percent of its electricity.

Built in 1909, the building has a sawtooth roof with 43 rows of north-facing skylights that let natural light into the mill.

Because the roofing is tilted at 22 degrees and faces south, it was perfect for capturing sunlight, said Phil Cavallo, CEO of Beaumont Solar Co., which installed the solar panels.

Drive down Belleville Avenue in New Bedford, and you can see the panels from the street.

“It’s pretty neat. It’s very photogenic,” he said.

The 1.3-megawatt system can generate 1.62 million kilowatt hours of energy each year.

Joseph Abboud president Anthony Sapienza said the company is a big user of electricity and has been conversant in renewable energy for years. With state tax credits and availability of local solar expertise, the project made sense, he said.

He expects the facility to cut its power costs by 80 percent.

The company has also converted its heating system from oil to natural gas and switched from fluorescent to LED lighting where possible, he said.

Joseph Abboud makes 1,300 suits per day in the facility. It has 800 employees, all of them local and overwhelmingly from New Bedford, Sapienza said.

Its parent company is Tailored Brands, which also owns Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A. Bank, and other menswear names.

Sapienza said the solar installation cost about $2.5 million and represents the company’s commitment to American-made products and to the city of New Bedford.

The city has become a leader in solar power, and “we’re proud to be a part of that story,” he said.

Sapienza, Cavallo, and New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell gathered on the manufacturing floor Tuesday to announce the project. Mitchell said New Bedford has installed more solar capacity per capita than any other city in the continental United States.

A century ago, when the Abboud building was part of the Nashawena Mills textile complex, coal was trucked in and burned to make steam and generate electricity, according to Cavallo. A tunnel beneath Belleville Avenue still connects the boiler house, on the east side of the street, with the main building to the west, he said.

New Bedford-based Beaumont Solar is the former Beaumont Sign Co., which Cavallo bought in 2006. An electrical engineer with ties to Cape Cod, he previously worked in Silicon Valley but wanted to return to the East Coast, he said.

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