We love sunshine here at the brewery - both the beer that we named after it* and actual sunshine. We love it because it’s delicious (the beer), because it boosts your mood and makes you feel warm inside & out (the beer and actual sunshine), and because it’s a renewable, infinite source of energy. In fact, all of the energy stored in Planet Earth's reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas is matched by the energy from just 20 days of sunshine. Whoa. Here at the brewery, we are getting ready to install some new solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to capitalize on this abundant energy source. The new PV panels will be installed on the roof of our packaging hall, right next to our existing PV panels, and will provide us with another 1.5 percent of our annual electricity needs. 1.5 percent may sound like small potatoes, but over the course of a year that adds up to a heck of a lot of energy that we’re capturing from the sun rather than from coal-fired electricity. When combined with our existing solar panels and the energy we harvest from our process water treatment plant, we are generating about 20% of our electricity needs here on site!
Solar panel technology has been around since 1839, when a Frenchman named Edmund Becquerel figured out that some materials can give off electricity when touched by sunlight. This also happens to be about the time that the lager style of beer was developed. Coincidence? Well, probably. Since the 1970’s a great deal of effort has gone toward making the technology more efficient and affordable. According to the good people at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, solar PV prices have declined by as much as 14% since 1998. Even still, the cost of solar can be a barrier. Our new panels have a 12 year return on investment (meaning that it will take the panels 12 years to save enough money on our utility bills to match the upfront cost of their installation). That 12-year ROI is made possible by partnering with Fort Collins Utilities through their Commercial Solar Power Purchase Program. We’d like to hug each and every one of their employees for being such a progressive and wonderful crew, we’re so lucky to live here!
Our solar panels are being installed by Namaste Solar. Namaste Solar is our brother from another mother. Just like New Belgium, they are an employee-owned Certified B Corporation. In case you haven’t heard the term before, Certified B Corporations are a new breed of organizations that are working to be not only the best in the world, but also the best for the world. Namaste is very much a leader in the B Corp movement, and has one of the highest certification scores of all B Corps. Check them out here!
The panels are going to be installed later this month, and we look forward to ringing in the New Year by reigning in some more sunshine. Won't you join us in toasting this good news?
Shine on. -- Ginger
Nerdy Facts & Figures:
1,235: total number of solar panels at New Belgium
215: number of houses we could power with the energy we generate on site
300 kilowatts: total size of our solar panel array
2: number of methane storage balloons at our process water treatment plant
2: number of bottles of Sunshine Wheat enjoyed while writing this blog post
*Sunshine Wheat is a lovely wheat beer that we’ve been making for over 20 years now. It was originally called Wedding Wheat, when our co-founder Jeff brewed it for his wedding. Fun fact, according to beerhistory.com: if an Egyptian gentleman offered a lady a sip of his beer in 1600BC, they were betrothed.