Turning beer green: MillerCoors unveils giant solar array

MillerCoors has become the latest brewing company to embrace the renewables revolution with the completion of a 3.2MW solar array at its California production site - the largest solar installation of any US brewery.

With more than 10,000 solar panels installed across 10 acres of the brewery grounds, the MillerCoors solar array at its brewery in Irwindale, California, will produce enough renewable energy to brew more than seven million cases of beer annually; helping to offset the company’s electricity use on the local grid during periods of high demand.

“From heating our kettles to the packaging process, we rely on energy to brew our quality beers,” said MillerCoors chief executive Tom Long. “Simply put, without energy there is no beer.”

“But we are acutely aware of the energy stress on this community, so we are doing our share – plus some – to decrease usage by installing this solar array. This step toward brewing more sustainably makes us a better brewer and a better neighbour to the residents of Los Angeles County.”

The same Californian brewery also creates biogas from wastewater, helping further reduce the brewery’s traditional energy use, which has decreased by more than 30% over the last five years.

Green brewing

Formed in 2008 as a joint venture between SABMiller and Molson Coors, MillerCoors has embedded sustainability into its core business strategy from the beginning. The company reached record lows for its water and energy consumption last year, and it has already surpassed all of the environmental stewardship goals it set out to achieve by 2015.

In its 2014 sustainability report, MillerCoors reduced energy consumption across its eight major breweries by 15.6%, with a 2015 goal to reduce the energy required to produce beer by 15%.

In an exclusive interview with edie, the firm’s director of sustainability Kim Marotta said water consumption will be the next big focus for MillerCoors’ sustainability strategy going forward. “Our employees are constantly looking for ways to make small changes within the brewing process to reduce water use,” Marotta said. “Within our supply chain, we look for partners to collaborate with – from local water conservation groups to our individual barley growers, whose insights and knowledge help us brew beer more sustainably.”

This solar installation is the latest in a line of green initiative from major brewing companies. Late last year, Heineken became the first major brewer in the UK to implement a large-scale solar panel installation on the roof of one of its flagship production sites in North Yorkshire. And earlier in the year, the world’s second-largest brewer, SABMiller, unveiled a set of ambitions new sustainability targets to cut its water consumption and CO2 emissions by 2020.

Solar at Sustainability Live

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Luke Nicholls

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