Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Project Profile


Solar Electric

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s new state-of the-art brewery in Mills River, NC demonstrates several leading edge sustainability measures, including on- site solar electric generation. With a combined capacity of 710 kilowatts DC, two separate photovoltaic systems will produce a significant amount of the electricity used in their operations. The rooftop array covers nearly two acres on the facility’s packing and warehouse, while nine parking lot canopies are strikingly visible to the public. They also provide shading, reducing the heat island effect, and enhancing the experience for visitors.

Rooftop Array 

  • System Size: 650 kW DC
  • Estimated Annual Production: 852,857 kWh
  • PV Modules: (2,030) Kyocera 320W Modules
  • Racking: Daetwyler Eco-Top Mounting System
  • Inverters: Solectria (1) 250 kW, (1) 300 kW
  • Monitoring: Deck (string level)
  • CO2 Offset: 588 metric tons


Parking Lot Canopies

  • System Size: 60 kW DC
  • Estimated Annual Production: 50,053 kWh
  • PV Modules: (198) Suniva 305 watt modules
  • Racking: Custom design
  • Inverters: Solectria (1) 50 kW
  • Monitoring: Deck (zone level)
  • CO2 Offset: 5 metric tons

SB canopy from SN website

As featured in our July 2014 newsletter:

The visionary folks at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. have issued a Rain Check from their new brewery in Mills River, but the proverbial “sunny day” won’t be long coming.   A testimony to overcoming the impediments posed by “merciless wet weather” and a bitter cold winter that slowed the construction of the state-of-the-art brewery since breaking ground in the Spring of 2012, their first specialty beer made with WNC in mind has hit the shelves.  Rain Check Spiced Stout marks the celebration of the official start of brewing at the site, and Brian Grossman, co-manager of the new facility spoke of its significance in a recent press release, saying “Getting this place up and online has been a long and challenging project, but now we can focus our energy on making great beer and delivering it to our East Coast drinkers fresher, faster, and with less of an impact on the environment.”

Whooping “Hip Hip Horrays” are certainly due  to Sierra Nevada  as  their dreams  of an East Coast Brewery  come  to fruition, (or should I say, fermentation!) and they undeniably deserve three big cheers for arriving here with an impressive suite of strong values and high standards that are manifest in their collaborative efforts, community-mindedness, and commitment to sustainability. Founder Ken Grossman was quoted early on in the process saying “For years, we’ve considered a second brewing location. The recent growth of craft beer in the eastern USA, combined with the environmental impact of shipping all the way across the country, made a second brewing location the most sustainable solution for us moving forward. In North Carolina, we were humbled by the community, its values and the outstanding craft beer culture in the area… Mills River and the Asheville area feel like a great fit for us; a close-knit community with outstanding quality of life, shared values and access to the outdoors.” Considering they reviewed over 200 sites, being selected for the home to their expansion speaks to WNC’s strengths and resources.

Asheville has long been recognized as a mecca for craft beer, having won the title “Beer City USA” for several years running.  The Asheville Brewers Alliance, true to its mission to “promote regionally produced beers and exchange knowledge and support between our members for the betterment and enrichment of the beer community” welcomed Sierra Nevada, forging a win-win collaborative relationship, rather than a competitive one. While an established and thriving market made this area a strong choice, the allure of WNC’s mountains and natural resources, especially clean water, a critical element to making quality beer, were also paramount in the siting decision. Much of the site’s180 acres bordering the French Broad River are being revitalized with hiking trails, garden spaces and river access, creating a hub for outdoor recreation that has always been close to the heart of Sierra Nevada.

A strong environmental ethos, along with a creative, innovate spirit to make the most out of everything, led the development of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. since being founded in 1980 in Chico, California. The company’s commitment to sustainability has been a cornerstone of their success, and they’ve raised the bar on many levels. Their 2012 Sustainability Report is an impressive account of their efforts to “maintain a healthy balance between environmental stewardship, social equity, and economic stability,” and is specifically aimed at three main goals: promote zero waste action, increase work space efficiencies, and lead by example to inspire change. Their basic approach “is to close the loop” wherever and whenever possible. “We look for opportunities to bring materials leaving our facility – such as heat, water, and packaging – back into our production process.”

Apparently, nothing escapes the scrutiny of the Sustainability Department in Chico, as Sierra Nevada recently received Platinum Zero Waste Certification from the US Zero Waste Business Council, making them the only company ever to reach that status. An audit showed that 99.8 percent of its waste was successfully diverted, often becoming a valuable resource for another process in their operations. Scraps from the restaurant are composted for use in the gardens, while waste vegetable oil is converted into biodiesel on site and used in their truck fleet.   Spent grain, hops and yeast are fed to cattle on local farms, including Sierra Nevada’s own herd. Biogas from the wastewater treatment plant is captured and used to fuel the boilers. They even go so far as to recover Carbon Dioxide from the fermentation tanks, and use it for pressurizing and moving beer through pipes and in bottling it.

Energy is also approached with uber-efficiency at Sierra Nevada, and heat recovery units on boilers, fuel cells, and brew kettles reclaim waste heat, rather than venting it.  Of course, they also soak up the solar energy spilling on their site, with one of the largest privately owned solar systems in the country.  Two megawatts of capacity, between several arrays, including one on their rail spur, generate nearly 20 % of the electricity used at the site.

Expanding upon this strong legacy of sustainability established over years of continually striving to do better, the new brewery is poised to model leading edge technology and operations.  “Our team is eager to apply lessons learned in Chico as well as new thinking to our North Carolina brewery,” stated Ken Grossman. Their stated goal is to earn a minimum of silver leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, but when it is said and done Gold or even Platinum level wouldn’t come as a surprise.

The inclusion of on-site solar generation will contribute to this goal, and Sundance was extremely proud to be awarded the contract for the installations. Sierra Nevada committed to work with local vendors, suppliers, and installers, and this is also valued in the LEED ratings. Cheri Chastain, Sustainability Manager said of the system “Integrating renewable energy into our Mills River facility was an important part of our project design.  Mirroring our Chico, California brewery’s diverse approach to renewable energy, we decided to couple biogas powered microturbines with photovoltaic technology in North Carolina.  Sundance Power Systems designed and installed our 710 kW solar system which covers a warehouse roof and features canopies in our parking lot.  We are looking forward to enjoying many years of renewable energy from the system.”

An impressive video (taken by a drone) gives an overview of the 650 KW rooftop system, which consists of over two thousand 320 watt photovoltaic modules manufuctured by Kyocera.  This array expands over nearly two acres on top of the packing hall and warehouse. Daetwyler’s Eco-Top Rooftop Mounting System with Built-In Wire Management uses durable recycled rubber ballast pads to protect the integrity the roof, and is manufactured regionally in NC. Two Solectria inverters (250 and 300 kW) prepare the electricity for interconnection with Duke Energy, and production is monitored through a Deck package.  The parking lot canopy system, with a collective capacity of 62 kW, is made up of nine umbrella-like canopies, each fitted with twenty-two 315 watt modules. A 50 watt Solectria inverter connects this system to the grid. These canopies are strikingly visible to visitors and will provide cool shading in the parking lot, reducing the heat island effect.

The first big event will be taking place in just a couple of weeks on Sunday, August 3rd, when Beer Camp Across America makes its finale. A seven-city traveling beer festival, with an open invitation to all craft brewers, its culmination coincides with the grand opening celebration of the Mills River site.  While Sierra Nevada is the gracious host, this event is an extraordinary collaboration of dozens of outstanding brewers. The essence of this spirit is captured in their 12-pack Beer Camp Across America variety offering, with the brewing partners selected from across the nation. Local stores will be receiving limited quantities of this commemorative sample on July 18. WNC is represented by the Asheville Brewers Alliance, who concocted a special Scotch Ale they’ve named Tater Ridge. According to Mountain Xpress, it is a “nod to Highland Brewing Co., who blazed the trail for all who followed here in WNC, and the strong agricultural traditions of our area.” It features sweet potatoes roasted by 12 Bones Smokehouse…how’s that for honoring the community and keeping things local?

It’s exciting and inspiring to see this energy bring together and enrich our region, and we’re honored to be part of it. Join us in toasting to “A Sunny Day” for Sierra Nevada, all their partners, and everyone who makes it out for the momentous occasion. Cheers!

(For more info on Sierra Nevada’s extensive sustainability measures, check out Upgraded Living’s article Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.: King of Green)


In the Media:

SolarPro Nov/Dec 2014

Sundance Power Systems: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, North Carolina

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is well known for its commitment to preserving the environment and its sustainability initiatives for manufacturing its ales and lagers. Its Chico, California, brewery is home to one of the largest privately owned PV arrays in the country. When it made the decision to expand to a new East Coast location in Mills River, North Carolina, Sierra Nevada intended to make the new facility as sustainable as possible, with features including a solar component to offset a substantial portion of the site’s electrical usage…

SolarNovus Today 10/20/2014

Sierra Nevada Beer Brewed by Solar, Biodiesel, Fuel Cells and Wind

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. has a strong sustainability mission dedicated to reducing its energy use, and it takes a multifaceted approach to renewable energy generation at its two breweries. Its energy goals include promoting zero waste action, increasing work space efficiencies and leading by example to inspire change….

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