California Microbrewery Takes Efficiency to the Max

Sierra Nevada is a craft brewer that has been quenching the thirst of beer “knurds” for several decades. Located at the base of the mountains for which it was named, Sierra Nevada has incorporated a sustainable and efficient mind-set into its operations since day one, including a strong focus on energy. For starters, the brewery generates over half of the electricity it consumes using four 300-kilowatt fuel cells and solar panels that can produce up to 1.94 megawatts. The company also installed a heat recovery process for the fuel cells to recycle that recovered heat back into the brewing process. Sierra Nevada has also pursued efficiency projects beyond on-site generation. Many of its brewing systems are automated using control systems, and incorporate variable-frequency drives where possible. New high-speed automatic doors replaced strip curtains at the cold storage warehouse, and the loading docks were sealed to reduce refrigeration losses. The facility takes advantage of the abundance of daylight with skylights and large windows, and the indoor lighting controls were also upgraded to incorporate timers and photosensors as well as more-efficient lighting ballasts and fixtures. Every computer in the facility uses software that allows Sierra Nevada to track the energy use of each of its machines. Through these efficiency initiatives, the company has been able to reduce the energy costs per barrel of beer by almost $2 since 2007, creating savings of more than $1.5 million—all while increasing the total annual production volume by over 159,000 barrels of beer.