A craft brewery in Victoria’s north east has taken what it describes as a first step on the path to carbon neutrality with the launch of a 50kW solar system that will supply all of the beer maker’s electricity needs.
The Bright Brewery, located in the country town of the same name, says it will save around $18,000 a year through the installation of the 192-panels PV system, which incorporates micro-inverters and system monitoring software by US-based company Enphase.
On these numbers, the brewery is expecting to achieve a payback period of less than five years, over – or after – which time they could easily “bolt on” more solar capacity or add energy storage, if required. The Enphase micro inverters also help make installation easier, and allow for future design flexibility.
“We’re a growing business with a growing market, so we wanted to make sure that the solar system is adaptable should we make changes to the building or roof design,” said Bright Brewery founder and owner Scott Brandon.
“The environment is one of the biggest drivers of Bright’s economy, drawing many visitors here across the seasons for the spectacular scenery and alpine adventures, so it is imperative for us to do our part in sustaining it.”
Living Energy Solutions, the company behind the installation of the brewery’s system, said their choice of technology aimed to maximise the efficiency and reliability of the solar panels, which were spread over 600 square meters of roof.
“When designing a solution for Bright Brewery we were challenged by a complex roof layout with partial shading, which can dramatically reduce solar efficiency, and the business’ high energy load,” said Living Energy’s Jess Christiansen.
“In the final design we went with Enphase micro inverters to deliver the most efficiency from the roof, maximise output and so it can be more easily modified than a traditional solar system should the brewery wish to expand its building in future.
“The Enphase smart solar technology also provides fantastic panel monitoring and production,” Christiansen added, “which is perfect for a business in a regional area, where limited access to technicians can result in costly system downtime if not picked up.
Christiansen said it was exciting for the company that the 50kW system they designed would off-set all of Bright Brewery’s electricity requirements – according to Brandon, the brewhouse used around 6MWh in January, during which time the solar array produced over 7MWh of power.
The next step, Brandon said, would be to focus on the energy required to heat the brewery boiler, which is currently powered by natural gas and requires around 12MWh of power each month.
“Although solar was a relatively simple first step to reducing our carbon footprint, the next thing we have to tackle is gas,” said Brandon. “It’s a major component of all brewery operations like ours, and there’s no simple answer like rooftop solar.”
But Brandon’s clean energy ambitions extend beyond his own operation: Bright Brewery has used the occasion of its solar launch to call on the industry’s peak body, the Craft Beer Industry Association (CBIA), to set in motion a sustainability initiative, with a desire to define sustainable craft brewing.
“We believe that sustainability should be an underpinning value of what defines a craft brewer. For us, craft brewing means really caring about how you make beer, why you’re making beer and the impact that the process and product has on your customers and surrounds. And that includes caring about your impact on the environment and the sustainable nature of your business.
“Many small breweries already have sustainably conscious practices built in to their brewing operations, so this is a fantastic opportunity for us to work together as an industry and really tackle the big needs for innovation to futureproof the whole manufacturing process.”
CBIA rep Katherine McLean confirmed the Association was in the process of booking a session on environmental sustainability at the Australian Craft Brewers Conference (ACBC 2016) to be held in Brisbane in July.
There are amazing new technologies being spearheaded by the industry, and good business cases to back them up,” she said.