The Top 10 Solar Powered American Craft Breweries

Solar power is widely used and growing in commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential use -- in addition to utilities, of course. And one of the fastest growing industries using solar power is brewing.

As solar power mounts its exponential growth, so do breweries. Two new breweries open every day in America, and many breweries both new and established are concerned with sustainability. This makes solar power and brewing a match made in heaven.

Often, breweries practice sustainability by reusing water whenever possible, donating spent grain to local farmers or reusing it in restaurant food, and using smart packaging like recyclable and efficient cans. But many are taking things to another level, sourcing brewery energy needs from the sun with solar power.

For those that understand the brewing process and solar power, this growing partnership is no surprise. As Brewers Association chief economist Bart Watson points out, breweries benefit from having a reliable source of energy that reduces costs, particularly for heating boil kettles or hot liquor tanks. And any brewery can appreciate the significant cost savings offered by investing in solar power -- in addition, of course, to the environmental benefits.

But even casual beer consumers can appreciate what it means for breweries to go solar: fewer CO2 emissions, more clean energy, and beer that you can feel good about drinking.

We've highlighted the top 10 solar powered craft breweries in America, some of them with solar power systems at the megawatt level. You'll learn about the impact each brewery is making with their solar powered system as well as many other steps they're taking toward further sustainable brewing.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Total solar power installed: 2.6 MW

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California is one of America's largest craft brewers. They are also a leader in solar powered brewing, boasting the largest amount of solar power installed in a craft brewery. In fact, they are just behind macro brewing giant MillerCoors, which has a solar capacity of 3.2 MW, the largest solar brewery system in the world.

Since 2011, Sierra Nevada has had a 10,573 panel solar installation on their rooftop space in Chico. This installation powers 20 percent of the brewery's electricity, about the same as 265 American households annually.

In addition to their Chico solar installation, Sierra Nevada has 2,200 more solar panels at their Mills River, NC facility. They also use microturbine technology and energy efficient practices at both brewing facilities.

Lagunitas Brewing Company

Total solar power installed: 2.1 MW

With a major solar project under development this year, Lagunitas Brewing Company will soon join Sierra Nevada as a California brewery leading the pack in solar powered brewing. The are currently working on a $5 million project to bring 2.1 MW of solar power to the brewery.

The project will include 6,000 panels installed on a cold storage warehouse, administration building, and on the brewery's nearby farm (while still allowing for cattle and sheep grazing with elevated "cow ports.") It will provide 50 percent of the brewery's electricity needs. The brewery currently spends about $1 million on electricity annually. This solar project will be the second largest solar array in Sonoma County, California. It is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Highland Brewing Company

Total solar power installed: 324 kW

Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, North Carolina installed a 324 kW solar power system in 2014. Made up of 1,045 solar panels, this system powers many of Highland Brewing's operations. It is installed on the brewery's 180,000 square foot building with a flat roof, which is now about halfway covered by panels.

Highland Brewing Company continues to innovate in brewing sustainability with a greywater system, low emission equipment, and energy efficient brewing practices. They have future plans for a CO2 recovery system, solar tubes, composting, and reductions in inputs, water, packaging, and energy.

Stone Brewing Company

Total solar power installed: 312 kW

Stone Brewing Company's Escondido, California facility has a 331 kW solar capacity. Made of 1,561 200 watt photovoltaic modules installed in 2008, the system produces about 20% of Stone's total electricity needs. They prevent approximately 1.5 million pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere annually. At peak power generation, Stone's solar panels are able to produce enough energy to power an average American household's electricity needs in a single day.

Stone Brewing Company has extensive environmental and sustainable efforts. They are the largest purchasers of local, organic produce in San Diego County and save 110,448 lbs of CO2 from being released annually with their Meatless Monday menu. Stone offers electric car charging stations, uses a water reclamation system, composts some kitchen waste, and more.

New Belgium Brewing Company

Total solar power installed: 300 kW

New Belgium Brewing Company uses sunshine to make their famous Sunshine Wheat beer. The brewery has 1,235 solar panels producing about 300 kW of electricity. This amounts to about 4.5 percent of the brewery's electricity needs each year. Their first installation was a 200 kW array on top of their packaging hall in 2010. In 2014, they added another 96 kW to their existing panels.

New Belgium also uses biogas for onsite power generation and they purchase wind power and renewable energy credits. Since 2013, New Belgium has instituted an internal energy tax on a per kilowatt hour basis for their purchased electricity consumption. This money is used for energy efficiency projects and renewable energy.

Kona Brewing Company

Total solar power installed: 229 kW

Like California and Colorado, Hawaii is a solar power leader, so it's no surprise that Hawaii's largest craft brewery has gone solar. In 2010, Kona Brewing installed a 229 kW solar power system. They are able to offset nearly 50 percent of the brewery's electricity needs with solar power. Over the lifetime of the solar power system, it's estimated that Kona will prevent 16,830 barrels of oil from being shipped to the island.

Kona Brewing Company further supports sustainable brewing practices by using sophisticated efficient equipment and establishing behaviors as simple as turning off unneeded lights. They practice water conservation by collecting rainwater and excess air conditioning condensation that offsets nearly nine percent of the brewery's brewing water needs. Kona aggressively minimizes waste with recycling and use of locally sourced products and services that are non hazardous, reusable, recyclable, or compostable. Their annual Kona Brewers Festival is a zero waste event, a goal they strive for in all of their events.

Bear Republic Brewing Company

Total solar power installed: 166.8 kW

Bear Republic Brewing Company's Cloverdale, California brewery has a solar capacity of 166.8. It meets nearly 45 percent of the brewery's energy needs. The brewery has a goal of becoming carbon neutral and continues to plan further solar installations. Real time production stats for Bear Republic's solar power system can be viewed online.

Bear Republic aggressively cuts water usage in their drought distressed region. Typical breweries use up to seven gallons of water to make one gallon of beer, but Bear Republic has cut their water use to beer produced ratio to three and a half gallons for every one gallon. They are also installing a bioelectrically enhanced wastewater pretreatment plant to provide 25 percent of the brewery's hot water heating and nearly 50 percent of the brewery's electrical needs. The plant will also allow the brewery to reuse up to 25 percent of their water.

SweetWater Brewing Company

Total solar power installed: 157 kW

SweetWater Brewing Company in Atlanta, Georgia has a 157 kW solar power system. It is made up of 750 rooftop solar panels installed in 2012 as part of a brewery expansion. The brewery's solar power system is the largest private system in the city of Atlanta. It reduces the need for more than 300,000 pounds of CO2, 19,000 gallons of gas, and 176,000 pounds of coal annually.

Flying Fish Brewing Company

Total solar power installed: 129 kW

In Somerdale, New Jersey, Flying Fish Brewing Company has a 129 kW solar power system producing 150,000 kWh per year. The 463 panel solar power system was installed in 2011 and provides a significant amount of the electricity the brewery needs to operate.

Flying Fish Brewing Company's solar power system is just one of the ways they're working to become more sustainable. They've made their brewery a showcase for recycling, reuse, and conservation. Passive solar light tubes are used in the brewery while efficient brewing equipment is fully automated and uses a lower water ratio than many other breweries. They are also able to reuse process water for cleaning and have a rain garden that uses approximately 15 percent of the rainwater that hits the brewery's roof.

Anderson Valley Brewing Company

Total solar power installed: 125 kW

Anderson Valley Brewing Company's solar power system is 125 kW in size. It provides 40 percent of the company's power needs. They are proud to call themselves a solar powered brewery and report that since 2006, the system has already paid for itself in energy savings. Their system is made up of 768 solar panels on the top of their brewhouse and employee parking structure.

Anderson Valley practices further sustainability by packing several of their flagship beers in environmentally friendly cans. They also operate using recycled brewhouse equipment reclaimed from closed German breweries.

Want to learn more about solar powerered breweries? SolarPlaza maintains a list of the top 40 solar beer breweries in the world. These include not just American craft brewers, but large American brewers and international breweries small and large to highlight the largest solar powered breweries in the world. Cheers to sun powered beer!