There. We said it. We are not perfect, and we know it.
We make beer. And that means that we use energy and create greenhouse gas emissions. We are continually striving to minimize our impact, to produce more of our energy onsite, and to come up with new & innovative ways to reduce our demand. But at the end of the day, we are still currently using fossil fuels to make our beer, and we think that it's important to have a healthy dialogue and understanding around that.
Read on to learn about our energy conservation approach and aspirations for the future.
To guide our decisions around energy usage at the brewery, we have adapted the familiar nutrition pyramid.
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.
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.
In 2010, we installed Smart Grid technology at the Fort Collins brewery. A Smart Grid enables a 2-way flow of both
energy and information between us and our utility provider. Thanks to the Smart Grid, we 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).
This Smart Grid technology was partially funded by the FortZED project, which you can read about at the bottom of this page.
A few different onsite energy generation technologies are employed across our Fort Collins (FTC) and Asheville (AVL) campuses.
BIOGAS. At our onsite Process Water Treatment Plant in FTC, microbes clean all of our production waste-water through a series of aerobic and anaerobic 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. We're literally turning waste into energy, a great example of a closed-loop system! Our AVL Process Water Treatment Plant is under construction and will also generate biogas.
SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAICS. We have 1,235 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels covering the roof of our Packaging Hall in FTC. This equates to just about 300 kilowatts of electricity, or roughly 4.5% of our FTC annual electricity needs. Our AVL Liquid Center has a 19 kilowatt PV array adorning its beautiful roof, which helped the building to earn LEEDTM Platinum Certification. What could be better than using sunshine to make Sunshine Wheat beer!SOLAR THERMAL. A solar hot water system on the roof of our AVL Brewery uses energy from the sun to create hot water which we utilize in domestic applications, like our kitchen and restrooms.
Since January of 2013, we have taxed ourselves on our purchased electricity consumption. 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. We have been saving up this money for a few years now to invest in some big efficiency improvements to our FTC brewery, which we can't wait to share with you.
Read more about the creation of our Internal Energy Tax here on our blog.
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.
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 www.fortzed.com)
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.