There are many systems that offer substantial energy-saving potential in breweries, including boilers, refrigeration and cooling systems, compressed-air systems, motors, and packaging systems. As a result, breweries can benefit greatly from a variety of strategies that are easy to implement and that are either free or cost very little, such as turning things off, turning things down, and keeping up with cleaning and maintenance.
Boilers and Steam
Boiling wort is the single most energy-intensive step in brewing, and fuels for boilers alone can account for 25 to 35 percent of a brewery’s overall energy bill. There are several ways to cut energy use in the boiling process.
Identify leaks. Steam and condensate leaks directly result in energy waste, but they are generally straightforward to detect and seal.
Insulate effectively. Steam and condensate return lines and components are often poorly insulated. Ensure that a sufficient level of insulation is in place to minimize heat loss and save energy.
Adjust steam pressure. Higher pressures than necessary can result in leakage and steam losses, whereas pressures that are too low can yield significant heat loss during distribution and end use. Check steam pressure regularly to ensure that it’s just high enough to meet the maximum equipment requirements.
Refrigeration and Cooling
Refrigeration plants commonly use over 20 percent more energy than they actually need. Because refrigeration represents around 35 percent of a brewery’s electricity bill, these systems present a significant opportunity for energy savings.
Optimize setpoints. A change in temperature of just 1° Fahrenheit—whether an increase in evaporating temperature or a decrease in condensing temperature—can reduce energy consumption by 1 to 2 percent. Evaporation temperatures, in particular, are often set lower than necessary.
Insulate chilled water or coolant pipes. As in other areas, insulating pipes is a great way to reduce energy waste and realize savings.
Manage auxiliary loads. Poor control of auxiliary loads (including inadequate insulation of cold-storage areas, air infiltration, open doors, and so on) can increase energy costs by more than 20 percent. The initial audit should identify major cooling loads and suggest ways to reduce them.
Properly sequence compressors. Compressors operate most efficiently at full load. In a system with multiple compressors, the most efficient operation occurs when you sequence compressors based on their loads and respective efficiencies, and when you ensure that only one compressor operates at part load.
Although compressed air is often viewed as an essentially free resource, systems that produce it account for nearly 10 percent of overall electricity consumption and are often poorly designed or maintained.
Match your supply to your load.Generate compressed air at the pressure required—cutting pressure in half can result in energy savings of more than 50 percent. In addition, sequence your machines to ensure that, when the demand is at less than full capacity, one or more compressors are entirely shut off (instead of having several operating inefficiently at part load).
Check for leaks. Leaks are a major source of energy loss and can effectively double the cost of compressed air. Because leaks also result in lower pressure at the end point, they can cause operators to set pressure levels higher than would otherwise be necessary. A leak detector can provide long-lasting benefits and can pay for itself in less than six months.
Switch off compressors. Turn compressors off when production is down, and consider making piping changes to enable shutting off supply to production areas when there’s no need for compressed air.
Review operations. Look for areas where an alternative technology could replace compressed-air use.
Packaging comprises everything from bottle filling to palletizing, and it’s a major source of energy consumption in most breweries. As a result, the implementation of efficiency measures related to packaging can be a great way to cut costs.
Optimize line efficiency. In addition to reducing the number of shifts required, increasing line efficiency can have a big impact on energy use by helping to eliminate losses when the line is idle.
Run conveyors only when necessary. This simple step can save money by reducing energy consumption and demand while also conserving lubricants and water. Although this measure can be handled manually, automation controls can make it easier.
Although many brewers may be leery about changing their process or recipes, there are a couple of easy adjustments that can save energy without affecting flavor.
Brew batches back to back. A large amount of energy goes into just preparing brew equipment (like boilers) for use. By brewing multiple batches back to back, instead of spreading the process out over several days, you can minimize wasted energy while simultaneously reducing your peak load consumption.
Implement high-gravity brewing. Because most of the brewing process uses essentially the same amount of energy regardless of beer strength, one effective strategy is to produce, ferment, and process more-concentrated wort, and then dilute the beer to normal strength just before bottling. This approach can greatly reduce per-barrel energy consumption while simultaneously increasing the output capacity of the brewery and improving consistency. Although some macrobreweries may dilute their product by as much as 40 to 60 percent, diluting by as little as 3 to 5 percent will still yield benefits without a noticeable impact on flavor.
Move processes off-peak. Even without reducing energy consumption, breweries may be able to immediately lower their electric bill by changing the times when energy-intensive processes (like wort boiling) take place. Because breweries are typically charged higher electricity rates during times of peak load and may be penalized for having poor power factor, it’s possible to reduce bills by as much as 20 percent through load shifting, load shedding, and power factor correction. Contact your utility to learn more about your energy rate and find out how to reduce peak demand surcharges.
As in all buildings, HVAC represents a consistent source of energy consumption and can be made to operate more efficiently.
Change system settings. During closed hours, turn temperature settings down in heating seasons and up in cooling seasons. You can automate these settings with programmable thermostats. In addition, make sure that HVAC settings in stockrooms, offices, and other peripheral spaces are at minimum levels.
Maintain your system. Making sure that your HVAC system is regularly cleaned and serviced can help to prevent costly heating and cooling bills. If your system uses an economizer, have a licensed technician check, clean, calibrate, and lubricate it about once a year, because economizer failure can increase heating and cooling costs by up to 50 percent.
Improving the efficiency of your lighting systems can be straightforward and inexpensive, and it’s an easy way to save energy.
Upgrade your fluorescent lamps. If your facility uses T12 fluorescent lamps, relamping with modern T8 lamps and electronic ballasts can reduce your lighting energy consumption by 35 percent or more. Adding specular reflectors and new lenses can increase these savings and yield short simple payback periods.
Install occupancy sensors. Areas that are not consistently occupied—such as storage rooms, restrooms, back offices, and walk-in refrigerators—are ideal places for occupancy sensors. They can save 30 to 75 percent in lighting-energy consumption, and they typically yield simple payback periods of one to three years.
A number of microbreweries also operate as part of a brew pub. In these cases, there are even more opportunities for reducing energy consumption. For information on energy-saving measures specific to restaurants, including efficient cooking equipment, vent hoods, and refrigeration, see our article on Managing Energy Costs in Restaurants.