MillerCoors, a major US brewing company, has constructed a 3.2MW solar array at its brewery in Irwindale, California. So far, it is the largest one installed at any US brewery.
Solar increases energy independence
The brewery has already reduced its energy consumption by 30% over the past five years, and the installation is meant to further offset the company’s reliance on the local grid. The array includes more than 10,000 panels which are scattered across the brewery’s 10 acres and financed through an arrangement with SolarCity. The solar plant is expected to generate enough energy to produce approximately 7 million cases of beer annually.
Not only will the new project allow MillerCoors to significantly increase the brewery's energy independence, it also offers environmental benefits to the San Gabriel Valley region and the residents of Los Angeles County. The system will prevent the release of more than 144 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere over its lifetime – this is the equivalent of taking over 12,000 cars off the road or planting more than 6.2 million trees.
As the state of California continues to struggle with severe drought, the system will also save nearly 672 million gallons of water that would otherwise be consumed to produce electricity from fossil fuel or nuclear sources.
The brewery also uses biogas from its wastewater treatment plant to power two General Electric engines.
MillerCoors CEO Tom Long said,”From heating our kettles to the packaging process, we rely on energy to brew our quality beers. Simply put, without energy there is no beer. But we are acutely aware of the energy stress on this community, so we are doing our share – plus some – to decrease usage by installing this solar array. This step toward brewing more sustainably makes us a better brewer and a better neighbor to the residents of Los Angeles County.”
State Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) says of the solar installation: "This project will help MillerCoors control its energy costs and support clean energy jobs, and demonstrates that MillerCoors is doing its part to reduce carbon emissions and help the state meet its clean energy goals."
Other breweries (and businesses) harnessing the sun
For perspective, Heineken last October became the first major brewer in the United Kingdom to invest in a solar installation. Its project is in North Yorkshire, and it was built in partnership with BYD and Solar Access. The 4,000-panel array’s generating capacity is 876MWh annually. That’s about enough power for 185 homes and represents about 5% of the brewery’s overall electricity consumption.
The Anheuser-Busch site in Newark, New Jersey, and The Sierra Nevada brewery in Chico, California, also host solar installations. The latter includes 6,800 panels and boasts a capacity of 1.26MW. Considered in aggregate with the four biogas-powered fuel cells there, renewable energy handles about 73% of the electricity needs at the Sierra Nevada site (about 8.88 million kWh).
But it’s not just the breweries turning to the sun for cost-effective and environmentally friendly energy. Businesses across the board are beginning to see the value in solar power and other renewables.
Mainstream companies such as GM, Walmart, Sprint, Staples, and Kohl’s are only a handful that we have written about recently. We wrote recently how Walmart prides itself in being a leader in testing and scaling renewable energy projects in their stores, including solar, micro-wind on their parking lots, biodiesel generators and fuel cells. [Engerati – Retail Takes Control of its Energy Consumption.] Apple is also taking a bite out of the renewables potential – the company is working towards a very ambitious goal: powering all of its facilities with 100% renewable energy. And, it seems that the company is well on its way to meeting this goal. In 2010, the company was powering its corporate campuses and data centres with about 35% renewable power, but the company is currently pushing that number to about 94%. [Engerati – Apple Gets Its Green On!]
The motivation is clear — reducing the power bill and creating a reliable source of power. A solar power system can save enough that the return on investment can be rather quick. After the system has been paid off, companies can look forward to lower power bills.