Sun and Suds: The Rise of Solar Powered Breweries

By June 23, 2016civic, COMMERCIAL, solar

There are few things better on a warm sunny day than enjoying a cold pint of your favorite craft beer with friends. These days, though, the sun is responsible for more than just a pleasant party atmosphere.

Across the country, craft breweries are working to create beers made from the best ingredients, and increasingly these breweries are using solar power. This drive toward solar follows a trend among larger breweries, and is one more aspect of a broader, overall industry trajectory toward a more sustainable way of doing business.

Think Global, Act Local

In the past few years, some larger brewers have begun adding solar arrays to their industrial locations. Brands such as Heineken and Sierra Nevada are adding solar panels at their brewing facilities. Because of the scale of these operations, it’s easier to find the space and to reap the financial benefits of a solar system.

However, the move by craft breweries toward solar has been gaining momentum slowly as owners try to balance the benefits against the perceived costs and their thinner bottom lines. For some owners, though, the move to solar makes sense because it fits in with their mission.

“We’re businessmen, and we have to make good decisions, but the industry cares about its impact (on the environment),” said Eric Bean, owner of the Columbus Brewing Co. in Columbus, Ohio. “It is a serious commitment … that is just the right thing to do.”

Bean was checking out the setup at Jackie O’s in Athens, Ohio, which recently added a solar array. According to the owner at Jackie O’s, the solar setup is part of the brewery’s motto: “Sustainably crafted with purpose.”

Part of The Appeal

For a brewery in Washington, D.C., adding a solar system has brought in a net positive amount of power, as well as becoming a source of pride — and a useful marketing tool. Atlas Brew Works made the move to solar in 2015 as part of an expansion project.

“[We’re] heating things up and cooling things down all day long so we wanted to do something to offset our environmental impact,” Atlas founder Justin Cox said.

The solar array provides enough power that the brewery is able to send some back into the grid. Along with changes made in the brewing process and the use of more sustainable packing products, Atlas is able to offset all traditional energy usage some days.

“During the peak hours of solar production, [we’re] producing more electricity than we’re using at the time,” Cox said. “So it gets pumped out in the electric grid.”

One major benefit to Atlas that Cox didn’t expect was the goodwill the community has shown toward the brewery because of its move to solar. As customers have mentioned solar as a selling point, Atlas has begun to focus on this as a part of its brand.

“We make it a big part of our identity and people come in and ask about solar panels,” Cox said.

For these breweries and others, the sun is doing more than helping to grow the best hops, barley and malt. The sun is providing beer drinkers across the country with another reason to raise a glass and smile.

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