2020 fort collins Goal: Reduce energy intensity to 120 mj/hl

2020 asheville goal: reduce energy intensity to 85 mj/hl

energy intensity

New Belgium’s Energy Philosophy

To guide our decisions around energy usage at New Belgium, we have adapted the familiar nutrition pyramid to illustrate our energy priorities. We see “Energy Conservation” as the base of the pyramid, because the cheapest and most sustainable watt is the one you never use. By shrinking our energy demand first, we believe we are being both environmentally and financially responsible. Let's dive into each section of the pyramid below to talk about what we're doing to reduce our energy impact.

NBB Energy Philosophy Pyramid

Energy Conservation

All businesses are dependent upon fossil fuels in order to create and transport their products, and we're no different! While employing technology to source renewable energy resources is part of the solution, we must first reduce our need for electricity & natural gas - especially peak hour demand. Through investing in efficient equipment, harvesting waste energy through heat exchangers & energy storage tanks, and designing with conservation in mind, we have been able to greatly decrease our energy needs. There's always room for improvement and we strive to continually improve our processes and efficiency.  

Demand Management

In 2010 New Belgium installed Smart Grid technology here at the brewery. A Smart Grid applies 21st century technology to our power systems. Rather than the conventional electric grid (characterized by one-way flow of information & energy, with no data consumers can use to manage their energy use), the smart grid enables a 2-way flow of both energy and information. Thanks to the Smart Grid, we now receive notification from our electricity provider when the grid is at peak demand, and can take informed steps like shutting off non-essential power loads for short amount of times to reduce our peak demand & energy costs. For example, we can elect to shut down our building HVAC system for a short period of time on mild weather days without the ambient temperature in the space changing (so our occupants won't even notice the difference). We will also be able to integrate our variable distributed generation (solar, biogas, etc) with the city’s supply and demand. 

This Smart Grid technology was partially funded by the FortZED project, which you can learn more about at the bottom of this page.

On-Site Power Generation


New Belgium utilizes an on-site Process Water Treatment Plant (PWTP) where microbes clean all of our production waste-water through a series of aerobic (with air) and anaerobic (without air) basins.  A byproduct of this process, methane-rich biogas, is harvested and piped back to the brewery, where it powers two combined heat and power (CHP or co-gen) engines. This biogas is providing about 15% of our annual electricity needs and turns a waste stream into a source of energy. It is a beautiful example of a closed-loop system in our brewing process! 

Solar Photovoltaics

We have 1,235 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels here at New Belgium. This equates to just about 300 kilowatts of electricity, or roughly 4.5% of our annual electricity needs. In January 2010 we commissioned a 200 kilowatt PV array on top of our Packaging Hall.  At the time it was installed, it was the largest privately owned array in Colorado. In late 2014, we installed another 96 kilowatts next to the existing panels. What could be better than using sunshine to make Sunshine Wheat beer?! Our original 200 kW array was partially funded through the FortZED partnership, which you can read about below.

Internal Energy Tax

Since January of 2013, we have charged ourselves a per-kilowatt-hour tax on our purchased electricity consumption, at the same rate that we were previously charged by the Fort Collins Utilities Green Energy Program. In early 2015, we elected to supplement this pot of money with some additional dollars relative to our natural gas usage. This money is reserved for energy efficiency and onsite renewable energy projects here at the brewery that help to directly reduce New Belgium's reliance on fossil fuels. Read more about the initial creation of our Internal Energy Tax here on our blog.  

Wind Power & Renewable Energy Credits: The History of New Belgium's Support for Green Power in Fort Collins

In an effort to understand our carbon footprint, New Belgium conducted an energy audit back in 1998 which showed that the single biggest emitter of CO2 in our process was the electricity we used, supplied by coal-burning power plants. As a result, New Belgium employee-owners voted to dip into their bonus pool to subscribe to the City of Fort Collins’ wind program at a premium of 2.5 cents more per kWh than fossil-fueled electricity (at the time, this was 57% more).  Thus: New Belgium Brewing became the country’s first brewery to purchase 100% of its electricity from wind power in 1999.

Our co-workers still relay the story of the wind-power vote as a personally defining experience that cemented their commitment to NBB and to sustainability.  Their enthusiasm put the environmental stewardship value Kim and Jeff committed to during the hike in Rocky Mountain National Park into action in a bonding, memorable, unanimous way.

When we started purchasing wind power, 100% of it was generated by turbines in Medicine Bow, WY which are tied directly to our grid. The City erected an additional turbine/monopole just to supply New Belgium with our electricity for the next ten years. In fact, our commitment as the single largest subscriber in the program allowed Fort Collins Utilities to become Colorado’s first electric utility to offer wind power.  This is an example of “the ripple effect” that we strive to have, finding ways to create a positive impact that ripples throughout our community & supply chain.

Currently, about 17% of the City of Fort Collins' renewable energy comes from the Medicine Bow wind farm, and the rest comes from wind-generated RECs from Wyoming, Oklahoma and Kansas, as well as landfill gas RECs from Idaho.  In 2013, we re-evaluated how we could make the most impact and greatest ripples effect with the dollars we invest in renewable energy, and we made the decision to move away from purchasing RECs and to instead implement our Internal Electricity Tax as a means to invest in future renewable energy and energy efficiency projects directly within our facilities.

FortZED & Renewable and Distributed Systems Integration

Many of our efforts would not have been possible if New Belgium had attempted them alone. We are lucky to have so many talented organizations and institutions in our community whom we get the great opportunity to collaborate with on a regular basis. A prime example of this is FortZED and the Renewable & Distributed Systems Integration project. 

In 2007, New Belgium partnered with the City of Fort Collins, Colorado State University and other energy-focused companies to apply for a grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) to demonstrate a 20-30 percent peak electric load reduction. This collaborative project was the first phase in implementing FortZED, a long term vision for a zero energy district in downtown Fort Collins. (learn more at

Through the DOE grant, the City and its partners received $6.3 million in federal grant money to research, develop and demonstrate new electric grid technologies. $4.9 million in matching funds, including cash and in-kind services, were also donated by New Belgium and other partners to make this project a reality.

For New Belgium, this meant installing $3 million in new load-shedding and on-site generation capabilities, funded 50% in house, 25% by the DOE and 25% by in-kind donations. Our vision for this project is to be able to create or shed 1000kW of electricity - almost our annual peak load - through solar PV, co-generation, metering and controls.