Coming soon: 100% self-sufficient solar beer

Photo: dpa Picture Alliance
Photo: dpa Picture Alliance

Being a country where beer is the traditional beverage, it is not unusual to find German bioenergy and solar thermal companies close to breweries, providing process heat for them.

However, a brewery that not only supplements its energy supply with solar and bioenergy, but is actually completely self-sufficient using these two types of renewable energy, is something entirely new. Just in time for the Oktoberfest, the Hofmühl Brewery announced its ambitious plans to be completely self-sufficient. The company has been using a solar thermal system for some time now and has been able to save around 50,000 L heating oil per year. Other breweries are already doing similar things. The 900 m² facility will now be supplemented by a combined heating and power plant that uses biomethane, which is obtained from brewer grains, surplus yeast and other waste products from the brewery.

It was important to the family-owned company that only waste material be used, so there would be no competition with food production. The price of barley, for example, which is also used for brewing, has already doubled in recent years.

The heat that is generated by the CHP plant will be fed into the heat storage unit, which was previously installed for the solar thermal system. The CHP will provide more than 750 GWh of heat and 500 GWh of electricity per year.

So far, the brewery is very happy with the performance of the solar energy system, which has been in operation since 2008. The long hours of sunshine during midsummer, which is peak season, have a particularly positive effect on energy costs. The collectors provide up to 130 °C of heat and do not need glycol additives in the heat transfer medium. "Unlike fossil fuels, solar energy creates no emissions. Although alternative energy sources such as biomass or wood pellets are renewable, they produce dirty combustion gases," Volker Baumgartner, Managing Director of the privately owned Hofmühl Brewery, explains.

Although the CHP will initially burn 50% natural gas, the brewery aims to be completely energy self-sufficient within five years.

The brewery has already received numerous awards for its innovative and environmentally friendly efforts. In addition to renewable energy, the brewery has also made a name for itself with its energy efficiency.

Jan Gesthuizen

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