Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. has a strong sustainability mission dedicated to reducing its energy use, and it takes a multifaceted approach to renewable energy generation at its two breweries. Its energy goals include promoting zero waste action, increasing work space efficiencies and leading by example to inspire change.
To achieve these goals, the company strives to be as energy efficient as possible. The company upgraded its lighting system with energy efficient technology and it takes advantage of natural light throughout the plants. Variable frequency devices are in place on large use motors and pumps in an effort to improve efficiency and conserve energy. The next step toward its goals is to generate some of its own energy. The company makes biodiesel, installed solar panels, uses fuel cells, and more. The 1MW fuel cell system in use at its Chico, California (US) headquarters generates roughly 55% of the total electrical needs for the Chico brewery. The solar installation on the Chico facility, one of the largest privately owned in the country, generates another 20% of its power needs.
East Coast operation
Despite its West Coast name, Sierra Nevada recently opened an operation in North Carolina primarily to reduce transportation costs (and energy use) incurred in shipping its products to the east coast of the US. The company is pursuing at minimum a silver level in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for this facility. It has extensive rain water capture and reuse system, solar panels, and micro-turbines running on biogas generated at its onsite waste water treatment plant.
The company recently installed two net-metered solar systems with a combined capacity of 712 kW DC, covering nearly two acres on the facility’s packaging and cold storage warehouses and as elevated parking canopies. Both systems were installed by Sundance Power Systems of Weaverville, North Carolina. The PV system on the warehouse uses 2,030 Kyocera 320 Watt solar modules and has an estimated annual production of 852,857 kWh, offsetting the equivalent of 588 metric tons of Co2. Sundance Power Systems chose to use a mounting system from Daetwyler Clean Energy, two inverters from Solectria Renewables and a string-level monitoring system from Deck Monitoring.
The parking lot canopy uses 198 Suniva 305 modules, a custom racking system, a Solectria inverter and a zone-level monitoring system from Deck. According to Erika Schneider, Director of Communications at Sundance Power Systems, they went with the Suniva 305-Watt module on the canopies due to the proposed dimensions as the Suniva modules enabled string sizing that was more compatible with the dimensions. The canopy system is estimated to produce 50,053 kWh annually, offsetting the equivalent of 43.5 tons of Co2.
The canopy installation was designed by Design Workshop, a landscape architectural firm that worked with Sundance Power Systems and the building architect, Russell, Galloway Associates. The challenge was to have the canopy blend in with the aesthetic look of the front of the brewery. Spot-lighting to the parking areas below is integrated into the underside of the canopies. The most distinctive features are the guy wires that come out of the top of the center post that holds the canopy up.To really blend in with the aesthetic look, Sundance Power wanted to conceal all DC PV circuits and AC lighting circuits into the canopy structure, “Yet we always had to keep our DC and AC circuits in separate raceway,” Schneider said. “Keeping the AC and DC circuits separated while they were right next to each other inside of the structure required more planning than most canopies would require,” Schneider concluded.
The two solar installations at the Sierra Nevada North Carolina plant are averaging about 90,000kWh a month, which, according to Cheri Chastain, Sustainability Manager at Sierra Nevada, is what they were expecting. By keeping energy efficiency a top priority while generating home-grown energy, the brewery is a leader in the movement toward waste reduction and self-sufficiency.
Written by Anne Fischer, Managing Editor, Solar Novus Today