Our Chico, CA, brewery houses one of the largest privately-owned solar arrays in the country. The 10,751 panels cover enough rooftop space to span 3.5 football fields and supply 20% of the brewery’s electricity, the equivalent of powering 265 average American households for a year. In Mills River, NC, we have a comparatively modest collection of 2,200 panels including freestanding “solar trees” in our parking lot.
Running off natural gas in Chico and biogas produced from our wastewater treatment plant in Mills River, each brewery uses microturbine technology to generate electricity. Chico’s system of 10 microturbines has a generating capacity of two megawatts compared to Mills River’s two units that generate nearly one-half megawatt. Chico’s system is also equipped with a band of batteries that allows us to store excess energy during the day for use during off-peak times. Between the two systems, the energy output of our microturbines could power 40,000 60-watt light bulbs for one hour.
At both of our breweries, we incorporate energy efficiency practices in a variety of systems. Heat recovery units on boilers, microturbines, and brew kettles capture energy that otherwise would be lost, and devices on large motors and pumps conserve energy by automatically adjusting to demand. Lighting also plays a key role in cutting down on wasted electricity. Ambient light sensors adjust electric lighting based on the amount of natural light coming through large windows and skylights throughout the brewery. We further conserve energy by using motion sensors and timers to ensure lights are off when we’re not using them.