Sun and beer – a power combo

Green beer isn’t only for St. Patrick’s Day anymore. In Atlanta, SweetWater Brewing Company is remaking its brewery to meet growing demand, and a hefty photovoltaic system is part of the project.

Sweetwater said its expansion from 26,000 to 114,000 square feet of space should be wrapped up by November and “fully functioning” in January 2012.

Beer production, which was at 77,000 barrels in 2010 and is expected to grow to 90,000 this year, will be able to rise to as high as 400,000 barrels with all that extra space. And to a large extent, it’ll be beer brewed by the power of the sun.

The company said the PV system planned for the revamped brewery will be “the largest private commercial solar installation in Atlanta.”

Empower Energy Technology is the lead on the project, and the company spec’d out the system at 157 kilowatts, with first-year electrical generation pegged at 234,684 kilowatt-hours based on Atlanta’s climate. (According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average American home uses 10,896 kWh of electricity annually, so you could call SweetWater’s solar setup a 22-home system.)

The system consists of 750 Solyndra panels, each rated at 210 watts. According to SweetWater, the system is so light – just 2.8 lbs. per square foot – that it won’t require boosting structural support. 

The self-ballasted Solyndra panels also don’t need to be attached to the roof, so no nasty holes and bolts. 

The system will be a nice banner for solar power, too; SweetWater noted that it “will be visible from passing Marta trains and the Buford Spring Connector that takes commuters to and from I-85 and I-75 and the adjacent Beltline.”


Pete Danko, EarthTechling