Sure, you’ve heard of sun-brewed tea. But have you heard of sun-brewed beer?
AB may have been the first to bring sun power into the state’s beer industry. More than 3,000 solar panels were installed by Orion Energy Systems on the brewery’s roof in 2010, at the time satisfying approximately 5% of the brewery’s electricity demand at full capacity.
Flying Fish owner Gene Muller installed 463 solar panels and solar tube lighting, a skylight alternative for channeling sunlight into his warehouse, when he built out the brewery’s newer facility – a former Motown record manufacturer – in 2012. In Ewing, Chris Walsh moved his brewery River Horse to a building already equipped with 8,000 square feet of panels in 2013.
The panels were “absolutely” one of the reasons he chose to move his business to the building he did, he said. “We had sort of a wish list and I probably went to between 30 and 40 buildings. This one, it hit a lot of the pieces, one of them being solar. It was, ‘really? Its already there? Cool.’ That was a cost savings for us and a definite additive,” Walsh said.
At Flying Fish, the ethos has always been conservation-driven, explained Director of Sales and Marketing Kirk LaVecchia. The brewery’s slogan, Drink Outside Your Pond, is meant to encourage people to both be adventurous with their drinking habits while also being stewards of the land.
Going solar scratches a few itches: According to research from Rausser College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley, a solar panel system has the ability to provide electricity for an entire home with about 80% lower carbon emissions than fossil fuels. It’s good publicity, too, as 90% of U.S. adults think the country should develop more solar power, according to a Pew Research Center poll.
In addition, according to the website Energy Sage, which is powered by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, a 6 kW solar system will cost approximately $11,000 but will save the owner more than $29,000 over a 20-year period.
“Everyone’s trying to lower their footprint, and that definitely helps. On the PR side, we don’t do a lot of humble bragging, but when Sustainable Jersey starts poking around, we’re just glomming on to it,” Walsh said. “The customers like it, it’s part of branding and anything you can puff yourself up about is good.”
“From the brewery point of view, it’s manufacturing. It’s cooler than a lot of manufacturing, but you still create a lot of wase. It’s just part of it. Starting up the line, there’s labels, there’s half full cans, and you use a lot of energy and a lot of product, and it’s sort of engrained in the culture to try to eliminate your footprint as much as you can,” Walsh said.
The aforementioned breweries have other sustainability efforts as well. Both River Horse and Flying Fish give their spent grain to nearby farmers who use it to feed their livestock, and Walsh’s team recaptures the heat from the kettles to use elsewhere in the brewing process. AB has used a Bio-Energy Recovery System, which turns the nutrients in wastewater into biogas that provides 15% of the fuel needed to power the Newark facility’s boilers, for the last 25 years. Flying Fish recaptures the steam from its brewing process and has rain gardens on its Somerdale property to provide a habitat for native plants, to prevent runoff into the Cooper Creek and to filter water back into the ground at a manageable rate.
“I know everybody tries to do their best. We always think we can do better, but we are continually trying,” Walsh said.