Solar United Neighbors – Brews from the Sun

If you have been following along the last few months then you know that Spotlight on Business has been working with Carra Cheslin, Director of Engagement and Ben Delman, Communications Director of Solar United Neighbors to get the word out about the non-profit that started in Washington, D.C. back in 2007 when Solar United Neighbors Executive Director was asked by her son, if they could go solar. Spoiler Alert, she did and along the way built an organization that now supports communities, homeowners and businesses in 13 states and has overseen over 4,100 installations for a total of 32 megawatts of electricity. Well if you are a regular reader of the magazine then you also know that we have a continuing series on Craft Brewing, well this month we are combining them both as we spotlight Solar United Neighbors’ Brews from the Sun event and the businesses that are using solar in the pursuit of the perfect pint.

In addition to The National Solar Tour, which Solar United Neighbors co-hosts with the American Solar Energy Society was recently held on October 5th and 6th, allowing people interested in learning more about going solar to tour their homes and businesses and learn the benefits of going solar right from the mouths of people that have made the switch.

Another event that has businesses talking about the benefits of going solar are Brews from the Sun Competition which is an annual competition by Solar United Neighbors’ to crown America’s Favorite Solar Craft Brewery. Each spring, solar-powered craft breweries from across the country will compete during 6 weeks of public voting to receive the most votes and be crowned America’s Favorite Solar Craft Brewery in three different categories:

  • BrewPub – Which according to the Brewer’s Association is a restaurant-brewery that sells 25 percent or more of its beer on site. The beer is brewed primarily for sale in the restaurant and bar. The beer is often dispensed directly from the brewery’s storage tanks. Where allowed by law, brewpubs often sell beer “to go” and /or distribute to off site accounts. Note: BA re-categorizes a company as a microbrewery if its off-site (distributed) beer sales exceed 75 percent.
  • Microbreweries – Which according to the Brewer’s Association is a brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels (17,600 hectoliters) of beer per year with 75 percent or more of its beer sold off-site. Microbreweries sell to the public by one or more of the following methods: the traditional three-tier system (brewer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer); the two-tier system (brewer acting as wholesaler to retailer to consumer); and, directly to the consumer through carry-outs and/or on-site tap-room or restaurant sales.
  • Regional Breweries – Which according to the Brewer’s Association is an independent regional brewery with a majority of volume in “traditional” or “innovative” beer(s).

The 2019 Brews from the Sun Competition had 8 Brewpubs, 21 Microbreweries and 15 Regional Breweries sign up to participate in the competition with the public voting on their favorite power beer. Voting this year took place from May 6th – June 15th.

More than 140 craft breweries from 38 different states around the country have installed solar panels to help power their operations. Their solar systems range from 4.2 kW – 2.1 MW in size, and include solar panels installed on warehouse buildings, parking shade structures, farmhouses, ground mounts, and even as the roof of a beer garden, how innovative.

When Solar United Neighbors announced the winners of its Brews from the Sun competition to crown America’s Favorite Solar Craft Brewery, Maui Brewing Company of Hawaii placed first in the regional brewery category, Mad Mole Brewing of North Carolina won in the microbrewery category, and Canal Park Brewing Company of Minnesota took the crown in the brewpub category.

In total, 44 breweries competed across the three categories. Sponsored by BrewSavor™ which is a new product line dedicated to tubing and hoses used for craft and home brewing and dispensing now offered by NewAge® Industries, a solar-powered manufacturer of fluid transfer systems used in the brewing process, Brews from the Sun brought together solar and craft beer enthusiasts from around the country.

“We’re honored to be selected as America’s Favorite Solar Craft Brewery for 2019,” said Garrett Marrero, Maui Brewing Company’s Founder and CEO. “Since our beginning in 2005, Maui Brewing has always been committed to sustainability. Brewing our beer and now distilling spirits with grid-independence makes sense for our business and the environment. We’re leading the charge to demonstrate, it is possible to manufacture high-quality beverages and be mindful of the community and the environment.”

Solar accounts for more than 80% of Maui Brewing’s electricity needs. By the end of the year they plan to be 100% powered by solar. Maui employs solar photovoltaic and solar thermal systems to provide electricity and hot water to brew the company’s beer. Maui Brewing’s 1.2 MW system was installed in 2017. They recently added battery storage to help achieve their goal of becoming grid-independent by the end of 2019.

Solar United Neighbors is a national non-profit organization that empowers people to go solar, join together, and fight for their energy rights. It helps thousands of people go solar every year through bulk purchases known as “solar co-ops” as well as through a paid membership program. Members receive on-going support for their solar system, discounts to businesses that have solar, and join a community of solar supporters to ensure their investment in solar is protected.

“We were thrilled just to be associated with so many forward-thinking breweries,” said Ole Pederson, Martin de Jongh, Chris Worden and Thomas Varnum of Mad Mole Brewing. “We are grateful for all the support we have received from our wonderful customers and the local community. The competition helped raise awareness of the possibilities of solar.”
Mad Mole is Wilmington, North Carolina’s only solar-powered brewery. After opening the brewery in 2018, the owners didn’t waste time installing a 22 kW system to power the production of their beer.

“BrewSavor™ by NewAge Industries is happy to partner with Brews from the Sun in support of brewing North America’s best beers using solar energy,” said Michael Tangreti, Director of Marketing at NewAge® Industries. “Since our commitment to solar energy in 2011, our team has united in growing our business with a focus on the customer experience, community, and our environment.”

BrewSavor™ by NewAge® Industries offers fluid transfer solutions for every step of the beer brewing process. Tubing and hose are engineered for both low and high temperature applications involving craft and home brewing.

More than 13,000 votes were cast during the six-week competition by craft beer enthusiasts and solar energy supporters from around the country.

“We’re thrilled that so many people voted for us,” said Paul Kaz, Owner of Canal Park Brewing Company. “We’ve been working towards installing solar since we opened in 2012, so just getting the panels up and running was a huge win for us. Winning American’s Favorite Solar Craft Brewpub was icing on the cake. We’re so grateful for the support of our staff, those involved in designing and implementing our system, and of course every one of our customers who voted and continues to support us by stopping in for solar-powered craft beer!”

Canal Park Brewing Company is new to solar, having their 16 kW system installed this year. Even before going solar, the company demonstrated its environmental commitment by offering biodegradable straws and composting all of its food waste.

As a part of the competition, several participating breweries held solar happy hours. These were great opportunities for solar and beer enthusiasts to meet, vote, and have a great time.

“We are inspired by the many breweries around the country who are looking to the Sun to power their beer,” said Anya Schoolman, Solar United Neighbors Executive Director. “They’re setting a great example not just for other breweries, but for everyone who can save money and take control of where their energy comes from by going solar.”

We can only see the popularity of this event grown as more and more breweries make the change to solar energy as a part of their business model and brewing process after all what goes better together than sun and suds.

by Jamie Barrie