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Solar Powered Beer

Light, Beer: Kona Brewing Co. reaps savings—and makes a good brew—using solar power.


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Photo: Courtesy Kona Brewing Co.


Photo: David Croxford

As if beer on a sunny day needed a bigger push. In August of last year, Kona Brewing Co. flipped the switch on a new, 228 kW photovoltaic system at its headquarters in Kailua-Kona.

Installed by Sunetric, a locally-owned solar energy company, 990 solar panels mounted on the company’s warehouse roof produce roughly 60 percent of the electricity for the pub and brewery. (Yes, that means you can accurately say you’re drinking mostly sun-powered beer when you chug a draft.)

Over the next 30 years, the solar energy system is expected to offset 16,830 barrels of oil, as well as prevent close to 8,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere each year. The company says the system is among the largest in the craft beer industry nationwide.


Photo: David Croxford

“We want to be a part of the solution, not the problem,” says Kona Brewing Co. president and CEO, Mattson Davis. “It’s innovative, it’s the right thing to do and it’s environmentally responsible, especially since we live in an island environment.” Davis also says the return on investment isn’t as far off as one might think. Based on current electricity rates, he expects the system to save more than $100,000 in electricity bills per year.

Environmental initiatives are no trendy, new thing for the company. The brewery produces Hawaii’s first and only certified organic beer; its restaurants use compostable to-go containers; its bottled beer is packaged in glass bottles 11 percent lighter than most; and the brewery’s spent grain is given to a cattle rancher on the Big Island, or baked in its pizza dough and breads.

“We divert almost 90 percent of our total waste stream,” explains Davis. “We’re delivering a smaller carbon footprint, and we’re saving money while we’re at it.”

Now that calls for a toast.

 

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