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Waste Not
Closing Loop on Waste Helping German Brewery Become Net Zero by 2018

HofmuhlJust in time for Oktoberfest, the Hofmühl Brewery in Eichstätt, Bavaria has announced that a combination of solar and bioenergy is not only supplementing its energy supply, but making it completely self-sufficient, according to 2degrees.

The brewery says the use of a solar thermal system has saved more than 50,000 liters of heating oil a year for the last few years. But the facility's power will now be supplemented by a combined heating and power (CHP) plant, powered by biomethane generated from brewer grains, yeast and other typically wasted matter created during beer production.

The new power source is expected to generate more than 750 GWh of heat and 500 GWh of electricity a year; waste heat coming from the unit will then be directed back into the heat storage unit, which feeds the solar thermal system. Initially, the CHP will burn 50% natural gas, but the brewery says the incorporation of the biomethane will enable it to become a net zero facility by 2018.

Meanwhile, the brewery’s solar system, which has been working since 2008, provides up to 130°C of heat without the need for glycol additives in the heat transfer process, 2degrees says.

“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,” said Volker Baumgartner, managing director of the Hofmühl Brewery.

Beer makers around the world are making significant improvements throughout their operations to save energy and money: AB InBev announced in March a 12 percent reduction in energy consumption, resulting from efficiency improvements that saved the company $92 million; in July, Molson Coors reported that while it fell short of its annual targets for water and energy reduction, their progress to date is saving them $10 million a year and their targeted environmental performance through 2020 will result in additional annual savings of $16 million; and the 2012 Worldwide Brewery Industry Water and Energy Benchmarking Survey, released in August, showed that breweries accounting for one-third of the world's beer production have reduced their average energy use by 9 percent since 2008.

Breweries aren't the only beverage producers that are using waste by-products to create energy: This summer, Scottish malt whisky producer Tullibardine became the first distillery to partner with Edinburgh-based startup Celtic Renewables for conversion of its waste into biobutanol, a "next-generation biofuel" that produces roughly 25 percent more energy by volume than its competitor, ethanol. An additional advantage of biobutanol is that it is created from waste matter — unlike ethanol, which is generally made from fermenting food crops such as corn.

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