Green beer flows on St. Patty’s Day. But a different kind of green beer, sustainable beer, is a much larger trend in the brewing industry.
We wanted to make an infographic (and article) exploring the most common way for breweries to go green: solar arrays.
These solar powered breweries mean you can enjoy a can, bottle, or pint of guilt free beer.
And stick around after the infographic for a deep dive on how solar breweries are changing American Beer.
Solar Powered Breweries in the U.S.
Here is a link to a Google Sheet with all of our raw data for this piece.
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Solar Breweries Started with Eco-Friendly Brewers
The 1st American brewery went solar in 2006.
The Financial Crisis hit just as the idea of Solar Breweries started to gain momentum. That meant 0 solar breweries in 2009.
But the solar powered breweries trend really started taking off in 2010 and reached the peak of installations in 2015.
Let’s give some kudos and highlight the companies that embraced solar early and went out of their way to do the right thing.
American Solar Breweries
Anderson Valley Brewing Co.
Solar Array Size: 125kW
Year Installed: 2006
The 1st American solar brewery. Anderson Valley Beer’s website proclaims they were “environmentally friendly before it was trendy.” And as the 1st American solar brewery, we have to agree!
Their large solar array is 125 kW and generates 40% of the brewery’s energy.
Anderson Valley says it has already paid for itself.
But their commitment to sustainability doesn’t stop there!
“100% of our wastewater is treated and used for the irrigation of our goat pastures and estate hop fields. In addition, our spent grain is given to local cows and spent hops are used as a natural fertilizer.”
Solar Array Size: 331kW
Year Installed: 2008
This system covers around 20% of Stone Brewery’s energy needs at their Escondido, California brewery.
Every year, their renewable energy production prevents about 1.5 million pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
Stone has also installed EV charging, composts waste from their restaurant, and uses an advanced water reclamation system.
New Belgium Brewing
Solar Array Size: 296kW
Year Installed: 2010 & 2014
New Belgium Brewing was an early solar adopter – first installing panels in 2010.
On top of that, New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale is America’s first carbon neutral beer! They were even named the B-Corp “Best for the Environment honoree” in 2014, ’15, ’16, ’17 and 2019.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Solar Array Size: 2,600 kW (or 2.6 MW)
Years Installed: 2011 & 2016
Sierra Nevada has installed craft brewing’s largest solar array and overall capacity.
In 2011, Sierra Nevada installed 2,000kw of solar at their brewery in Chico, California to power 20% of the facility’s energy needs. They even added a 500kw/ 1 MWh battery battery backup system in 2017 (more on batteries in a minute).
But Sierra Nevada didn’t stop there.
In 2016, they installed 600 kw of solar at their east coast brewery in Mills River, North Carolina.
Sierra Nevada also uses CO2 recovery, advanced water treatment, and energy efficient practices at both brewing facilities.
Solar Breweries Save Money
Solar panels cost less every year. With lower costs, the economics of adding solar panels to a brewery make sense for more and more companies.
It’s a win-win-win. Going solar:
- Reduces carbon emissions
- Improves production reliability
- Reduces energy costs
As Chief Economist of the Brewers’ Association, Bart Watson, said in an interview, “[Renewable energy] makes good business sense. Breweries are energy intensive. It’s a manufacturing business.”
“When you’re constantly heating water for your boil kettle or hot liquor tank, having a reliable source of energy that over the long term reduces your costs makes sense.”
Solar makes sense to sell beer, too.
People will pay more for environmentally friendly beer
59% of beer drinkers are willing to pay more for sustainably-produced beer, and on average, they would pay around $1.30 more per six-pack.
Americans Expect Corporate Climate Action
A 2017 report found an overwhelming 86% of US consumers expect companies to act on environmental issues.
A 2020 report reveals around 80% of millennials and GenZ expect businesses to make even greater efforts to protect the environment. Deloitte
Installed Solar Capacity at American Breweries
As of 2021, there is over 24,000 kW (or 24MW) of solar capacity at American breweries. A truly enormous amount of power.
How much power?
24,000 kW is enough energy to brew almost 30 million gallons of beer.
That’s 1,749 backyard pools or 45 Olympic swimming pools of beer every year!
States With a Solar Brewery (as of 2021)
Solar breweries are all over the US! As of 2021, there is a solar powered brewery in 71% of US states (35 of 50 + Washington D.C.)
Solar Powered Breweries By State
Sunny Nevada and New Mexico don’t have any solar powered beer. Most likely because of anti-solar regulations in the states.
Just like with Electric Vehicles, California and Colorado are leading the way.
Cutting edge breweries have been getting even more out of their solar arrays by pairing them with battery storage systems.
There are a couple reasons.
Batteries can help save A LOT of money on “demand charges” through something called “peak shaving”.
What are “demand charges”?
Utilities don’t just charge for the energy you use. They also charge you for the most energy you use at one time. This is called your peak demand.
Sierra Nevada Sustainability Manager Cheri Chastain drives the point home. In 2016 Sierra Nevada paid more for their demand charges than they paid for the actual electricity.
That’s why in 2017, Sierra Nevada added a 500kw/ 1 MWh battery backup system to their Chico brewery.
Batteries also allow a company to go off grid if they’re designed right.
Maui Brewing uses their massive 1.2 MW solar photovoltaic system along with Tesla battery storage to produce 95% of their own energy and be completely grid independent.
That lets Maui Brewing keep on brewing, even if the grid goes down.