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Sustainability Is Brewing In California

September 07, 2011
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Chico, California is home to one of the finest and most eco-friendly breweries in the country.

The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is considered by many to be the premier craft brewery in the United States.

Image courtesy of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company But, what many people don''t know is the strong commitment the brewery has made to the environment.

Sierra Nevada was the first brewing company to participate in the California Climate Action Registry by voluntarily tracking its greenhouse gas emissions.

It makes methane from brewery waste products, which fuels four 250-killowatt (kW) fuel cells on-site and it has a 500-kW solar array shade structure in its parking lot. In addition, the brewery makes an ongoing effort to recycle, conserve resources and use innovative waste reduction techniques.

The latest addition to the brewery is the installation of a 1.26-megawatt (MW) solar electric system on the roof of its factory in Chico, making this one of the largest privately-owned solar systems in the United States.

The solar electric system was installed by Chico Electric and uses 6,800 185 watts peak (Wp) Mitsubishi Electric high-strength, corrosion-resistant solar panels.

The complexity of the factory''s 10 rooftops, with multiple azimuths and tilts, made the system design a challenge.

Chico Electric chose multiple inverters of different sizes — 60kW, 82kW and 95kW — rather than a few large inverters to maximize the amount of power generated from the module strings.

The system also uses non-penetrating mounting hardware, reducing the number of roof penetrations and possible leaks and decreasing installation time.

The brewery''s renewable energy systems will produce 8,877,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity annually and will provide 73 percent of the brewery''s power, enough electricity to power 833 average U.S. homes.

By choosing solar and fuel cell energy, the brewery will offset 4,678 metric tons of carbon every year that would have otherwise been emitted into the environment. The entire 1.26-MW solar electric system is expected to pay for itself in less than seven years.

By taking advantage of federal tax credits, rebates from the California Solar Initiative and accelerated depreciation, the Sierra Nevada Brewery was able to reduce the total system cost by 93 percent.

"Installing a solar electric system was an obvious choice for us, especially when financial incentives saved us 93 percent of the cost," says Ken Grossman, founder of the Sierra Nevada Brewery.

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