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How we reduced our electricity use by over 37%!

Breweries make cold beer. Everyone enjoys cold beer (except the British, those weirdos like their beer warm). Cold beer is good. But what’s the downside?

To cool something down, you need to use energy – in this case, electricity.

Australia’s electricity is typically produced using coal-fired power stations. Most people are well aware of how this affects our environment. In the ACT, we’re lucky as our government is super keen on renewables in our region. ACT Government initiatives include a handful of solar and wind farms, as well as a commitment to 100% renewable energy by 2020 (which they have just ticked off!)

From the early days of Capital Brewing Co, we made a decision to invest as much as we could in measures to reduce consumption of utilities. We made a commitment to continually improve and invest over time in reducing electricity use and eliminating waste. In the near future this will include quite a significant solar installation which we are pumped about.

We are working towards being the industry leader in environmental management – sure,  we’re not there yet but we are 110% committed to getting there. We’ve been inspired by a few legends that have gone before us – Stone and Wood & New Belgium to name a few.

All this chat is great. But what have we actually done about it…?

We’ll start with our refrigeration motors. 

These big, unassuming, boring looking bits of machinery are actually quite interesting. They help us massively reduce our energy each year.

When building this brewery, we installed three smaller refrigeration motors, instead of taking the more cost effective option of installing one big motor. Why?

We like to compare it to the startup of Davo’s huge road train or your Grandma’s tiny Honda Jazz. The road train draws a massive electrical current at startup, in comparison the Honda Jazz draws a relatively small electrical current. Our setup allows us to start one small motor (just like Grandma’s) when we need a little bit of cooling and then gradually ramp the motors up as more cooling is required.

All three of our motors are on variable speed drives, meaning we can dial them in and have complete control. If we only need 25% of one motor then that’s all that gets turned on. If it’s an absolute stinker of a day and we need to dial the cooling all the way up then all three motors come on, and turn off in sequence as the refrigeration load requirement drops.

We love our motors so much that we even gave them the gift of high pressure water misting!! This pre-cools the air (kind of like your evaporative cooler) before it gets into the refrigeration coils, significantly reducing the load and the electricity use of the motor.

One big motor is a significantly cheaper option at install than three smaller motors, however we did some quick maths on electricity use and we think in around 5 years we should be sweet.

Additionally, we also installed really bloody expensive, super energy efficient refrigeration pipes to run our magical chilling fluid (glycol) to our tanks. We’ve invested in piping material that has almost zero heat loss per metre. This means we are not cooling our chilling fluid to minus 4 degrees to have it reach the tank at zero degrees wasting 4 degrees of cooling.

So, next time you’re in the taproom, take a minute to stand and admire our unassuming, not-so-boring-anymore refrigeration motors.