Michigan's first solar breweries: Arbor Brewing installs $345K in energy efficient products at its 2 locations
With the installation of nearly $345,000 worth of energy efficient devices and systems, the Arbor Brewing Company and its Ypsilanti location, the Corner Brewery, will become Michigan’s first solar breweries.
Jeffrey Smith | AnnArbor.com
The Corner Brewery, located at 720 Norris St., is nearing completion on its $250,000 “Green Brewery Project” which includes solar-thermal, photovoltaic, and geo-thermal technologies along with other improvements such as new windows, awnings and energy-efficient chiller equipment.
Owners Matt Greff and Rene Greff received approval Sept. 13, 2011 from Ypsilanti’s Historic District Commission to install solar panels at the Corner Brewery, which is located within the historic district in the city.
The system being installed in Ypsilanti will be completed by the end of July and is expected to provide almost all of Corner Brewery’s hot water needs and up to 15 percent of its electricity.
This will save the brewery $20,000 a year, or nearly 50 percent of its energy bills.
Solar panels are being delivered and installed this week at Corner.
“We are the first brewery in Michigan to do this and when we wrap up Corner, that will be the biggest system east of Mississippi,” said Matt Greff. “It’s expensive being downtown so any way we can keep our expenses lower lets us be sustainable.”
In addition to the panels, Greff recently built a 2,000 square foot building to be used as a warehouse and for bottling services. Instead of using air conditioning at the facility, it uses geothermal technology to keep the building at 55 degrees year round. Greff said he expects to save around $1,000 a month by not having an air conditioning bill.
"It's really nice not to add the huge expense of air conditioning during the summer, we can use ground cooling," he said.
Everything being installed at the Ypsilanti location will have a seven-year payback, Greff said.
"In terms of longer sustainability, it's a means of keeping our expenses under control when energy prices won't be coming down anytime soon," he said.
The $95,000 Arbor Brewing Company project included a 2.4 solar photovoltaic array, 300 solar thermal collector tubes and a high efficiency tankless water heater system. They also switched to LED lighting in the facility.
The system is expected to offset gas usage by between 40 percent and 50 percent and electricity usage between 15 percent to 20 percent. Construction was completed Friday at the Ann Arbor location at 114 E. Washington St. with the installation of a DTE net meter that will track the amount of energy being generated.
“What we put on the roof was three portable solar panels that generate electricity, 10 solar thermal panels that heat water for the restaurant and brewery,” he said. “As of now, we’re going to get the majority of hot water for the restaurant and brewery from this.”
Jeffrey Smith | AnnArbor.com
The projects nearly didn’t happen when the original company that was contracted to do the work went bankrupt.
“A lot of the companies you work with are startup companies so they’re going through their own learning curve,” he said. “We kind of had to scramble to figure out how to put the system together ourselves. There was a point we thought it might not come together. We’re so happy to be online finally.”
The project grew out of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s Energy Conservation Grant Program, which provided free energy audits and 50 percent project rebates of up to $20,000 to downtown businesses that implemented audit recommendations to become more energy efficient.
Greff said he worked with the DDA Energy Programs Director David Konkle as well as a consulting team from the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and the Environment led by Jarett Diamond.
Together, they identified a number of financial resources and incentives to offset the installation costs including a $20,000 grant from the DDA, a $10,000 interest-free loan from the city, a 30 percent tax credit from the federal government and various incentives from DTE.
Greff said so far, everything has gone as he hoped for and employees haven’t experienced any interruptions during the transition. By switching over to the new system, the company has seen an increase in production of its beer.
“We typically do one batch a day and now by having hot water on demand, we can do two batches a day,” he said. “We’re not experiencing any sort of shortages.”
Greff said he hopes other local businesses and companies look into creating similar energy efficient projects. Despite the costs, he said the paybacks over the years will be invaluable.
He acknowledged the amount of skepticism people might have but he believes the more people see success with energy efforts, the more likely businesses will be to look at implementing similar efforts.
"Instead of looking at a 25 year payback, we’re really looking at a five-year payback plan," he said. "Its not just something we personally believe in and subscribe to, it makes good business economic sense."
The Arbor Brewing Company will be hosting a ribbon-cutting reception for the launch of the new system on Wednesday, July 11, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Ann Arbor location. The Corner Brewery will have a reception Wednesday, Aug. 29 from 5 to 7 p.m.
Katrease Stafford covers the city of Ypsilanti for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at KatreaseStafford@annarbor.com. You can also follow her on Twitter.