Beer giant Sierra Nevada runs its massive brewing operations with energy from a $4 million unit that delivers solar energy and natural gas, with a slight draw from utility reserves.
According to chicoer.com, the Chico, California-based company made its mark when it installed hydrogen-powered fuel cells for energy production, along with other cost-cutting measures, in the early 2000s — an event marked in 2005 by a visit from then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. But fuel cells weren’t the total answer, especially with the state’s emphasis — and incentives — on solar.
The Sierra Nevada brewery houses one of the largest privately-owned solar arrays in the country. The 10,751 panels supply 20% of the brewery’s electricity. In Mills River, North Carolina, the company has a comparatively modest collection of 2,200 panels including freestanding “solar trees” in our parking lot.
At both of the company’s breweries, they incorporate energy efficiency practices in a variety of systems. Heat recovery units on boilers, microturbines, and brew kettles capture energy that otherwise would be lost, and devices on large motors and pumps conserve energy by automatically adjusting to demand. Lighting also plays a key role in cutting down on wasted electricity. Ambient light sensors adjust electric lighting based on the amount of natural light coming through large windows and skylights throughout the brewery. Sierra Nevada further conserves energy by using motion sensors and timers to ensure lights are off when we’re not using them.
The brewery made headlines in January 2017 when it announced the installation of a 1-MWh commercial-scale Tesla Powerpack battery system and a 2-MW solar array at its Chico plant. The multi-unit Tesla Powerpack battery system, combined with its solar initiatives, is helping Sierra Nevada store energy for use at predictable times of peak consumption during the brewing process.
The 3rd Annual Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference takes place May 15 – 17, 2018 in Denver. Learn more here.