Odell Brewing rolls toward sustainability by activating its own solar array


Not actual picture of solar cells used

Written by David Young for the Fort Collins Coloradoan

The second Fort Collins brewery in less than a week has launched a photovoltaic solar electrical system to utilize the sun’s rays to help make beer.

Mere days after New Belgium Brewing Co. launched the largest privately owned PV solar array in Colorado, Odell Brewing Co. activated its own solar array Thursday.

Owner Doug Odell said the brewery’s expansion project was a wonderful opportunity to be able to add the PV panels as part of the brewery’s vision to operate a sustainable brewery.

“We really want to make this an opportunity for public awareness about renewable energy,” Odell said. “Regardless of global warming, I think it is clear to everyone that we can’t use fossil fuels forever. We need to move to other technologies.”

The PV solar array, installed by Wirsol Solar Colorado Inc., is comprised of 384 General Electric crystalline silicon 200-watt panels on about 11,000 square feet of rooftop. The PV array with a nameplate capacity of 76.8 kilowatts is anticipated to produce around 111,400 kilowatt hours annually, which represents around 39 percent of the brewery’s overall demand.

Odell stressed that they packed as many panels onto the roof as would fit.

The energy will be used throughout the brewery at 800 E. Lincoln Ave. to cool beer and power motors and pumps. There is no storage unit on site for excess energy, but Odell said they will be using all the energy produced.

Odell received a Green Building Grant from the Fort Collins Downtown Develop-ment Authority for $50,000; the remainder of the approximately $410,000 project was privately funded.

Unlike New Belgium, Odell is not part of the initial study by Fort ZED, a public and private partnership aimed at creating a zero-energy district. But the brewery is located within the boundaries, so this project will help support the citys Fort ZED goals.

Odells hope is that the installation will inspire others to follow suit by installing solar panels on their businesses or homes.

In order to educate the public about the new installation atop the brewery, Odell plans to closely monitor the installations in terms of monitoring in real-time kilowatt hours produced, cumulative kilowatt hours, the amount of carbon dioxide being saved and live webcams featuring images of the system. All the information and streaming video will be available to the public in the brewerys tap room, Odell said.

Noting Colorados 300-plus days of sunshine a year, Odell said the region is well-positioned for the new advances in solar renewable energy.

G.J. Pierman, Germany-based Wirsol Solar AGs director of business development, said the installation was the companys first in this country. Wirsol located its United States base in Fort Collins in December 2008.

Pierman said the installation went extremely smoothly and was very pleased to have the opportunity to work with Odell in his quest to create clean solar energy.
Whats important at this juncture is that education takes place and that there be a broad-based understanding about the capacity of solar and the vision that Doug has to make this type of an investment, Pierman said.

With the amount of sun in Northern Colorado, combined with the number of companies involved in solar and other renewable energy, Pierman said, compared with Germany, there is an estimated potential for 50 percent more energy production through solar here.

Wirsol has a number of other projects in development in the United States; but Pierman declined to comment on them until they are completed.

Our initial entry into the U.S. has been a success to date, but we have much work to do, Pierman said. We have been very pleased by the reception we have received here in Fort Collins and Colorado. We specifically look forward to playing our role in helping to push the renewable-energy industry forward.

Rik Arensmeier, assistant installer with Fort Collins Electric Inc., helped install the Odell array and said it was the companys first major installation of its kind.

I think it is really exciting to see (Odell) utilizing what we have so much of in Fort Collins. We have an abundance of solar and wind power; it just makes sense to have that as part of what we live off of, Arensmeier said.

There is a buzz within the industry about solar power, Arensmeier said. With the relatively low costs of energy that wont last forever, Arensmeier said, he expects more companies to follow suit in the future