So, this solar array. How large are we actually talking here? As of two days ago, New Belgium began the installation of an 870 panel 200 kW system, which will produce 16% of their peak electrical load and 3% of their total electrical energy used; it is reported that this alone will be able to power their bottling line for 8 hours on a sunny day. Pretty cool, huh? This further step in the brewery's greenery is apparently part of Fort Collins' FortZED initiative; the initiative aims to produce the world's largest active zero energy district through various renewable energy technologies.
In 1998, New Belgium captured the awe of those craft brewers out there who are trying to reduce their footprint during these troubling times. For 10 years, they have been running on 100% wind energy and can produce up to 15% of its electricity by capturing methane from their process water treatment plant, using it to fire a cogeneration engine that produces heat and electricity right under their little green noses.
So this has got to be pretty pricey, right? Well, yes. Of course. Over 1 million dollars, to be exact. Let's write that out. $1,000,000.00. Yep, that's quite a bit. However, another particularly groovy piece to this fabulous picture is that New Belgium is going to be reimbursed for up to 40% of this project through a Department of Energy grant.
Let's all take a moment of silence here, and appreciate the example New Belgium Brewing is setting. Pop open a beer while you're at it too (Their Fat Tire and Mothership Wit are particularly tasty).
Ahh, ethanol fuel. Some people love the idea, others hate it. I'd say...I'm sort of in the middle. I won't pretend that I know all the details surrounding it, its efficiency, or its manufacturing processes, but I never really liked the idea of growing excess food, with the sole purpose of it being converted into fuel. There are plenty of people starving in the world, and a lack of sufficient land as it is...I think we can come up with something a little less...counterproductive?But, using organic waste instead of freshly grown crops...well, I'm definitely sold.
The E-Fuel MicroFueler is a contraption that converts organic waste into ethanol fuel within minutes. AND it can easily be installed at individual homes. Pretty cool, I know. Equally cool is the fact that buyers are entitled to a $5,000 tax credit (perhaps H2 and H3 owners should be directly contributing to this credit?). That does sound nice and all, but let me mention that this bad boy does cost $10,000, so that's still kind of pricey. But hey, an investment is just that - an investment.
So what does this $10,000 get you exactly? A 250-gallon tank that is particular fond of wasted beer and wine (and it really loves "fresh" macro-industrial "beer," by the way...from what I hear), and a still that converts this waste into ethanol fuel (the still even has its own fuel pump built into it); its only byproduct is distilled water. According to its inventor, Tom Quinn, more than 100 billion gallons of organic fuel are thrown out each year. Let's write this one out too. 100,000,000,000. Oh yeah, that's definitely a whopper of a figure. So he figured it'd be much more efficient to use this waste for something productive instead. Who would argue with that?
The MicroFueler actually works more effectively with waste that is high in alcohol (no joke), but can be used with any type of organic material. The conversion into ethanol takes only minutes and uses about 3 kilowatt-hours of electricity to produce 1 gallon of fuel. The fuel could also power a home generator, which produces about 23 kilowatt-hours of electricity per gallon. So, if one factors in the reported statistics (annual household fuel consumption of 2,080 gallons and a $2.00 charge per gallon), along with the tax credit, the payback, on average, is about 2 years. Not too bad, I suppose.
Well, so what are we looking at here? Ethanol isn't as fuel efficient as gasoline (fewer miles are travelled on a gallon of ethanol versus a gallon of gasoline), but it does create 38% less carbon dioxide when burned. I'm by no means an authoritative voice on the pros and cons of ethanol fuel, but using waste, instead of fresh crops and land we can no longer spare on this planet, is definitely a sign of progress and further innovation.
There's currently only one MicroFueler up and running, and its owner, GreenHouse International Inc., has multiple contracts with brewers to turn their liquid waste into fuel. I've got a feeling that if this thing really kicks off and becomes what it is hyped up to be, we may be seeing one of these little guys, or something similar, making an appearance over at New Belgium Brewing sometime in the future. Who knows?
Peace and Love!