Related stories Related stories

Other Stories By jercraigs

  Green Beer Part 7
       Mar 2, 2006

  Green Beer, Part 6
       Jul 21, 2005

  Green Beer, part 4
       Dec 2, 2004

  Green Beer, part 3
       Nov 11, 2004

  Green Beer, Part 2
       Oct 21, 2004

  Green Beer
       Oct 14, 2004

  Toronto Festival of Beer
       Aug 26, 2004

  Beer Evangelism
       Aug 12, 2004

  Stupid Ratebeer Tricks
       Aug 5, 2004

home Home > Subscribe to Ratebeer.com Weekly RateBeer Archives > Features

Green Beer, Part 5

Savings, Savings Everywhere
Features May 12, 2005      
Written by jercraigs

Toronto, CANADA -

Brewers are an inventive bunch and find many ways to engineer new gadgets and re-purpose old machinery. This is equally true when it comes to saving energy around the brewery, with many brewers using interesting tricks and common sense solutions unique to their own facilities while others are championing new energy technologies and supporting environmentally friendly initiatives.


One unique heating and cooling solution is the deep lake cooling system at Steamwhistle Brewing in Toronto. <a hrefhttp://www.enwave.com>Enwave, the company that also provides Steamwhistle with steam generation, provides the service. It uses a series of heat exchangers to draw cool water from Lake Ontario to provide cooling to buildings in the downtown core, while at the same time providing drinking water to the city from the same intake pipe. Another well-known Enwave customer is the Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors.

At many breweries brewing equipment and fermenting beer generates enough excess heat that they do not need to heat the buildings. Many small brewers make a conscious decision to keep their buildings cool to avoid unnecessary heating costs. Rather than crank up the thermostat Ken Woods of Black Oak Brewing suggests, "Put on a sweater!" Common sense solutions such as these can add up to large long-term energy savings.

In larger facilities an energy saving option is the use of infrared heating, which helps keep workers warm without needlessly heating the air and equipment around them.

Let There Be Light

Simple lighting changes such as installing motion sensors, windows that allow sufficient daylight into work areas, or employees turning off unneeded lights, can generate large electricity savings. Depending on the number of bulbs and electricity costs, installing efficient lighting can often pay for itself in less than 2 years.

Moosehead Breweries in Saint John, New Brunswick, has long believed that employee awareness programs can help achieve energy efficiency targets. Plant security officers have supported Moosehead’s initiatives by reducing lighting use during off-peak hours and assisting in collecting utility readings. Moosehead has been replacing mercury vapor lighting fixtures in its production and warehouse areas with high-pressure sodium fixtures that consume half the energy with equivalent light output. Scotland’s Belhaven Brewing has taken similar steps, installing low-energy lamps, high frequency or compact fluorescent in office areas and high-pressure sodium (SON) in the packaging hall.

New Belgium takes this a step further, by using an array of windows to allow natural sunlight into the brewery, and solar tubes that mimic fluorescent lights. Motion sensors ensure that lights in less frequently used parts of the brewery are not left on unnecessarily. (More about this in my upcoming profile of New Belgium.)

Electricity/Wind Power

Significant financial savings are possible by reducing peak energy demands and working with local electricity providers to improve power factor. (Two electrical engineers failed to enlighten me on this concept, but essentially this insures that brewery equipment is operating in tune with the power supply.) Another way brewers can affect change through their electricity choices is the use of renewable energy sources.

New Belgium in Fort Collins, Colorado was the first U.S. brewery to be entirely wind powered when they signed a wind energy contract in 1998. Other North American brewers using wind power include Utah’s Uinta, New York’s Brooklyn Brewing, and 75th Street Brewing in Kansas. In Japan, Asahi has purchased more than 3.3 million kilowatt-hours of wind power at their Kanagawa brewery.

Not all wind power operations are received with open arms. Outer Banks Brewing Station had hoped to install a 10 kW wind turbine at their brewery in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., and partner with the local university to offer educational programs. Despite community support for the project the mayor rejected their plans. They are currently working on plans to become part of the Million Solar Roofs Initiative by installing solar panels on the roof of their restaurant. Interestingly, in the UK St. Peters Brewery is part of a group actively campaigning against the installation of a local wind farm claiming it will be a detriment to their "brand image".

Solar & Fuel Cells

There seem to be fewer brewers using solar energy than wind power, but many are beginning to explore this technology. Sierra Nevada recently held a conference on solar energy, and has also begun the installation of four fuel cells that will generate the majority of the brewer’s electricity needs. The system will use a heat recovery system from the cells to further reduce their energy needs, and bio-gas generated by Sierra Nevada’s onsite waste water treatment plant will provide an increasing part of the gas used by the fuel cells. The project is similar to fuel cells already in use in Japan by the three big brewers Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo. Kirin Brewery is also scheduled to install
solar power systems at three of its breweries in 2005, which they will use to accumulate experience prior to adopting solar power on a more widespread scale. Füchschen Brewery in Düsseldorf, Germany has also experimented with the use of fuel cells.


As a Canadian brewing giant producing more than 1.4 million hL per year, Labatt tends not to get much respect from us beer geeks but in terms of ’green’ brewing they deserve a closer look. In its London, Ontario, facilities Labatt has installed a natural gas turbine that provides all of the brewery’s steam and electrical needs through a process called cogeneration.

Cogeneration is the simultaneous production of electricity and thermal energy from the same fuel source in a single facility. Traditional power sources such as coal, oil and natural gas lose almost 60 percent of the energy generated as heat. Cogeneration technology allows this heat energy to be recovered and used in industrial processes such as steam production or heating and cooling applications. Cogeneration uses 10 to 30 percent less fuel than producing the same amount of electricity and heat separately, which significantly reduces costs, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Cogeneration installations are also increasingly using fuel alternatives such as municipal waste. In Brazil for example, sugar cane waste (bagasse) from ethanol production fuels cogeneration plants.

At Belhaven brewing a combined heat and power (CHP) plant now provides over 70 percent of their electricity demand, and reducing process steam requirements by heating both the bottle pasteurizer and the brewing liquor tank. The plant qualifies under the <a hrefhttp://www.chpqa.com>CHPQA program to receive an exemption from the Climate Change Levy on its natural gas fuel. Between 1993 and 2001 Belhaven’s total energy cost per barrel of beer fell from £7.60 to £2.30.

Other breweries using cogeneration include Coopers in Australia where they are using a gas turbine unit rated at 4.4 MW, and Ambev in Brazil who have been seeking to generate as much of their own power as possible. Goose Island Brewing in Chicago has installed a "six pack" of natural gas powered micro-turbines.

One obstacle to cogeneration systems is the large initial investment with returns spread over a longer period. The Canadian government hopes that by providing full financial quantification of benefits and improving corporate taxation incentives cogeneration will become a more affordable option, and encourage more companies like Labatt to make use of it. (See more at <a hrefhttp://www.ec.gc.ca>www.ec.gc.ca) The California Energy Commission similarly offers equipment and installation rebates of up to 30%.

In the next installment I will get started on some brewery profiles with a look at two breweries on the Canadian coasts – Crannóg and Storm.


No comments added yet

You must be logged in to post comments


Anyone can submit an article to RateBeer. Send your edited, HTML formatted article to our Editor-In-Chief.