Sustainability initiatives highlighted as American Craft Beer Week winds down.
HAMPTON, NH – With New Hampshire’s craft beer industry still hopping after its growth spurt over the past decade, more local breweries are looking for ways to cut their energy use and create a greener future.
American Craft Beer Week (May 15-21) is being held this week to celebrate small and independent craft brewers like Hampton-based Smuttynose Brewing Co., which is among the breweries that have taken steps to reduce energy consumption with a vision for a more sustainable industry.
Smuttynose – a Unitil electric and natural gas customer – has had an energy-conscious eye since its new brewery opened in 2014 and was built to adhere to Gold-level LEED certifications.
“Breweries typically use a lot of energy because of the processes involved in producing the beer, but Smuttynose and others have been finding ways to become more energy efficient over the years,” said Alec O’Meara, Unitil’s manager of External Affairs. “Local craft brewers continue to be significant contributors to the economy and we’re pleased to see that many remain committed to a culture of energy conservation.”
Among its efficiency initiatives is a 75-horsepower state-of-the-art air compressor that reduces lifetime electrical consumption by more than 6 million kilowatt-hours. The brewery also has a heat recovery chiller, which features units used on boilers and brew kettles to trap, recover and reuse energy that otherwise would be lost to the environment outside.
“We use the most efficient brewing system in the industry to recover excess heat from our brewing process. Using a heat exchanger, we use cold water to cool our wort as it goes to the fermenter and as that cool water heats up, we then use that water to brew our next batch of beer. Heating up the water ahead of time saves time, energy, and water,” said Smuttynose Vice President of Operations Trevor Bland.
Smuttynose’s lighting system includes energy-efficient LED sensors that adjust electric lighting based on the level of available natural light, and solar tubes that use daylight coming in through skylights and windows to reduce the need for electric lighting. Variable Frequency Drives have also been installed on brewing process equipment, heating and cooling systems, and cleaning equipment, which adjust the electrical frequency usage to the precise level a specific task requires.
“We’re able to save energy by not operating equipment at 100% capacity constantly,” Bland said.
Other features include a Carbon Dioxide Vaporizer, which converts liquid CO2 to gas through an energy-efficient heating process that creates cold air as a byproduct used to cool part of the facility. The brewery also recently replaced its gas-powered forklift with an electric one.
Like Smuttynose, Concord Craft Brewing Co. is also a Unitil electric customer that’s been exploring efficiency options. Co-owner Dennis Molnar said the processes with the highest energy demand are heating during the brewing process and cooling during the fermentation, cellaring and packaging processes. The brewery uses a two-stage heat exchanger to cool beer after it’s been boiled in the brew kettle and must be reduced to room temperature, allowing them to reuse the heated water byproduct for other processes.
“To increase the efficiency of our refrigerant, which uses air to cool down the glycol coolant used in our cellaring and packaging, we installed a water tower, which cools the refrigerant using a water pump and evaporation on our roof so that the energy required for air cooling is reduced. While many breweries use a two-stage heat exchanger, I think the water tower is a bit more unusual,” Molnar said.
Unitil has partnered with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services’ Pollution Prevention Program to help craft beverage producers find ways to reduce energy use and cut costs. The program looks closely at incentives offered through NHSaves to assist breweries as they explore opportunities to improve energy efficiency while encouraging them to perform energy audits. NHSaves is a collaboration of New Hampshire’s electric and natural gas utilities working together to provide customers with information, incentives, and support designed to save energy, reduce costs, and protect the environment statewide.
Smuttynose and Concord Craft Brewing have both been recognized for their efforts through the Pollution Prevention Program’s Sustainable Craft Beverage Recognition Program, which highlights environmental leaders in the craft beverage industry who go above and beyond to produce high-quality eco-friendly craft beverages.
According to Kathy Black, manager of the Pollution Prevention Program, 45% of the gas required for a brewery of Smuttynose’s size is used for brewing; 25% is for packaging; 20% for basic utilities; and 10% for heating. On the electrical side, she said 35% of the electricity use is for refrigeration and cooling; 25% for packaging and 10% is for compressed air.
“The low-hanging fruit that a lot of people go with is LED lighting, but insulation is another improvement and installing more efficient HVAC systems,” Black said.
She pointed to other relatively simple cost-effective steps that breweries can take.
“Just replacing the seals on a cooler door can save up to $2,000 a year in electricity costs because not having a good barrier between the hot and cold is going to cost you money and those seals are around $100,” she said. “For $100 you get a huge benefit. It’s just like insulating pipes inside. Traditional insulation that’s covered by the incentive is more like your building insulation, but we recommend to the brewers themselves to make sure that their pipes are insulated because it makes a huge difference.”
Black also recommended keeping up with routine maintenance such as cleaning and replacing filters regularly to reduce energy use.
“Because refrigeration and cooling is such an expensive part of brewing, I do try to talk to people about making sure that they’re doing all they can. Sometimes it’s just replacing the lighting in a cooling unit. People don’t think about the fact that LED lighting doesn’t put out a lot of heat, but fluorescent does,” she said.
Unitil has a Commercial Energy Efficiency team available to advise customers on opportunities for leveraging technical assistance in identifying efficiency opportunities in their facilities as well as accessing incentive funds to offset the costs of efficiency projects. Breweries and other businesses can request energy audits of their buildings using Unitil consultants, or develop projects themselves and work with Unitil staff to structure incentive applications for simpler, prescriptive technologies or more complex “custom” process or HVAC projects.