Maine brewery cuts costs with monitoring system, 'free air'
It’s not surprising that a brewery named for a river located in the untrammeled wilds of northern Maine would take its responsibilities to nature seriously. Allagash Brewing Company, located in Portland, ME, ranks being an engaged member of the community and a responsible steward of the environment right up there with “hand crafting the best Belgian-inspired beers in the world.”
Among the steps the brewery has taken to reduce its carbon footprint is the purchase of renewable energy credits that offset more than 90% of the electricity used (and emissions produced) by brewery operations.
Allagash also generates nearly 60 tons of spent grain each week, which it then gives to a local farmer who is able to use it as cattle feed since the grain still contains lots of nutritious protein, fiber, and carbohydrates even after the sugar is extracted from the grain during the brewing process. Instead of pouring yeast down the drain, this byproduct of making beer is also given to farmers who use it as fertilizer.
Finding alternative uses for nearly every by-product of the brewing process is the job of the company’s “Green Team,” which is comprised of staff members from all areas of the company who work together to implement sustainable practices that limit the amount of waste material that would normally be thrown in the trash, explains Allagash founder Rod Tod, who used to travel his company’s namesake river when he was a boy.
Cutting the amount of energy used to refrigerate its product was therefore a natural next step for a company like Allagash, which received an Environmental Excellence Award from Maine’s governor and Department of Environmental Protection for its green approach to waste reduction and diversion strategies
In business since 1995 when its first batch of “Allagash White” was sold to the public, Allagash still uses its original brew house to create its traditional and new favorites.
Freeaire of Canton, MA, was able to provide Allagash with a comprehensive proposal to retrofit the company’s five existing coolers with smart technology to regulate energy consumption and to make use of the cold “free air” outside. If fully implemented, the retrofit might have saved Allagash as much as $25,000 a year in electricity costs — enough to repay the energy-saving investment in less than two-and-a-half years.
The projected 225,000 kwh savings the company would have experienced translates into about 343,000 pounds of CO2 saved, according to the U.S. EPA, as well as 362 barrels of oil not consumed and 370,000 miles of roads not driven. That is a substantial savings for a company that distributes its products in a 17-state market that includes Boston, New York, Washington, Chicago, and even extends as far west as Los Angeles.
Allagash ultimately decided to utilize Freeaire’s energy-saving system in its large shipping warehouse with its sizable refrigeration needs to save an estimated $13,000 a year in energy costs.
Freeaire system achieves maximum energy savings from new or existing commercial refrigeration systems in any climate, at any time of the year in five ways First, Freeaire’s “All Climate” Controller constantly monitors temperature and automatically shuts down energy-hungry evaporator fans whenever possible, reducing the energy used by about 50% while also extending the life of the evaporator fans themselves.
The controllers also ensure that door heaters are only used when the humidity is high, and turn off lights and stand-alone glass merchandise cases when the store is closed. As an added bonus, turning off lights and motors reduces the amount of heat generated by the system itself, lowering the need for refrigeration and reducing compressor runtimes.
Freeaire electricians also replaced the existing evaporator fans motors with high-efficiency Electronically Commutated Motors (ECMs), which use up to 66% less energy.
Finally, Freeaire’s Polar Power package helps to bring in fresh, filtered outside air into a cooler whenever conditions allow it. For Allagash, on average, Polar Power should cool its beer for over 200 days per year.
Savings for Allagash began even before installation was complete since most energy companies offer substantial incentives for energy-saving systems like Freeaire. Allagash, for example, was only out-of-pocket for about half the $52,000 installation costs. And with energy savings running about $13,000 annually, even those costs were recouped in just two years.
Allagash calculates the company would have to sell about 14,000 cases of its Belgian-inspired beer to make up for the savings it gained by investing in the systems.