Sierra Nevada Brewing Company was started in 1979 by Ken Grossman. Along with co-founder Paul Camusi, Grossman built the brewery for salvaged equipment such as dairy tanks, a soft-drink bottler, and other equipment from defunct breweries.
Resource conservation and reusing and recycling raw materials are guiding operating principles of Sierra Nevada, and the company uses many strategies to operate is as green and efficient way as possible.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company currently generates 80% of its own electricity with a goal of generating 100%.
Use of Fuel Cells
Sierra Nevada chose to use fuel cells to supply its energy due to lower emissions than conventional power, minimal electrical line transmission loss, and the ability to co-generate and use waste heat in the brewing process.
The company has one of the largest fuel cell installations in the United States. 1 megawatt co-generations fuel cell power units provide power and heat to the brewery.
One megawatt of power produces most of power needed for the brewery's electricity demand. Co-generation boilers use the waste heat and make steam to boil beer and supply other heating needs. Waste methane from the brewery's waste water treatment plan is used as a fuel source for the fuel cells. Surplus energy is sold to the power grid.
Sierra Nevada recycles office paper, cardboard, glass, stretch wrap, plastic strapping, construction materials, pallets, hop burlap and other materials. The company has received WRAP Awards (Waste Reduction Awards Program) from the state of California every year since 2001. In 2002 Sierra Nevada was one of the top ten recipients for the WRAP of the Year Award.
In 2006, Sierra Nevada recycled the following:
- 63,149/200 tons of cardboard
- 6,604/25 tons of glass
- 54/25 tons of office paper and mixed paper
- 259/20 tons of shrink wrap
- 4,063/200 tons of plastic strapping
- 4,953/6,250 tons of Al
The company recovers the CO2 produced by the fermentation process and reuses during the bottle-filling process as well as in dispensing beer.
Sierra Nevada uses a vapor condenser to recover waste heat from the kettle boiling step of the production process to preheat process water. Plate heat exchangers are used throughout the process to recovery energy.
Sierra Nevada claims to use half the historical value of H2O used by breweries in the United States.
The company treats all of its own production wastewater, and uses a two-step anaerobic and aerobic treatment plant to process and re-purify water from the brewing operations.
The anaerobic digestion produces methane. This methane is used in the brewery's fuel cells.
Sierra Nevada joined the California Climate Action Registry, which is a voluntary reporting program to report and certify greenhouse gas emissions. The company was also rewarded as a Climate Action Leader by the Registry in 2006.
Sierra Nevada also joined Pacific Gas and Electric's ClimateSmart program, which is a voluntary carbon offset program.
Use of By-products
In conjunction with the Agricultural Department of California State University, Chico, Sierra Nevada provides feed for beef and dairy cows from its spent grain, hops, and yeast. Spent trub, which is very high in protein, is added to the spent grain.
Surplus spent yeast is used as a nutritional supplement for the cows.
The cows in turn give back to Sierra Nevada; their manure is used for the brewery's experimental hop field.