40-kilowatt, 140-panel system generates solar energy to power up a brewery

Michigan-based brewing company is brewing up solar energy

You can never go wrong with some sunshine and a glass of beer, right? That was the thinking behind the Michigan-based Dark Horse Brewing Company when it decided to green up its operations. Because brewing beer requires an abundance of refrigeration, compressed air, water, and light, it’s no surprise this progressive microbrewery became interested in making more beer with less energy.

Fitted with 140 solar photovoltaic panels in the form of two “farms” on its production facility, the brewery uses the harnessed energy to power its everyday operations. In the event that more energy is harvested than needed to power Dark Horse’s home grid, the excess power goes into the city grid for redistribution. Also in the works is the installation of a new dual compressor chiller, which is used to circulate glycol, a food-grade antifreeze, throughout the brewery’s pipes to keep beer cool and temperatures stable.

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Dark Horse Brewery’s solar system. Image via Design News.

Because the project was triggered by the need to upgrade the old chiller, the brewery opted for an energy-efficient upgrade, since it needed to invest anyway. Last year it collaborated with the Green Brewery Project, a nonprofit out of the University of Michigan that works with facilities to enhance sustainability and energy efficiency. After examining the Dark Horse compound, the Green Brewery recommended the new chiller system and solar panels.

But it didn’t start there – Dark Horse has always tried implementing cost-effective green initiatives to decrease energy costs. Three years ago the brewery installed three small solar panels on its taproom and used the energy to pre-heat water for the hot water heater. It’s estimated that each year, U.S. breweries spend over $200 million on energy, accounting for about 3% to 8% of the production costs. Hot water, cooling systems and refrigeration, compressor and motors, pumps, and HVAC for facilities account for much of the energy use.

By installing the solar system, Dark Horse will save $6,000 a year, which amounts to $120,000 over the project’s warrantied lifetime of 20 years, although it can outlast this time if maintained well enough. Each day the brewery demands 1,341 kWa, 10% of which will be offset by the solar system, meaning the system will produce about 49,000 kWA a year.

Although Dark Horse has seen quite a bit of success, its quest for energy efficiency still isn’t over. It’s currently planning a new production facility with the intention to implement more green initiatives, including automated vents on the cooler that open when the outdoor temperature drops below freezing. To get its curious patrons in on the greenery, the brewery plans to allow them to view the building’s solar-panel-monitoring system from its website and in the taproom.

Story via Design News.

Written for Electronic Products.

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