Hales Ales Going Solar

Last spring Big Al Brewing became the first Washington craft brewery to install a solar-thermal heating system. Big Al Brewing flipped the switch in June and started brewing with water heated (at least in part) by the sun. Net Zero Impact, a local solar energy solutions firm, designed and installed the system. The same company recently began installation of a similar hybrid solar-thermal system at Hale’s Ales Brewery in Fremont.

The system at Hale’s Ales Brewery is about three times the size of the system at Big Al Brewing. The project recently began with the dramatic lowering of a 1,200-gallon storage tank through a temporary opening in the brewery’s roof.

Hale’s Ales expects to reduce natural gas expenditures by $15,000 per year. The system will supply 3,000 – 4,000 gallons of solar-heated water per day. The hot water will heat the building and be used in the adjoining pub, but the most significant savings come from using the solar-heated water in the brewing process–a process requiring copious quantities of hot water.

The new solar-thermal hybrid system is one of several “green tech” solutions implemented by Hale’s Ales. The company uses high-efficiency light bulbs throughout the 17,000 square foot facility and manages the building’s lights and heating/cooling systems with an automated energy management system.

“We’ve spent 27 years serving the community with the very best hand-crafted beers possible and making our operations greener is just another way of giving back to our community,” said Mike Hale, founder and president of Hale’s Ales. “Net Zero Impact’s experience working with breweries, exceptional warranty and ability to implement an extremely complex design made it an easy choice to work with the company.”

According to Net Zero Impact, the solar system should prevent 3.3 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere over the next 25 years.

“Northwest brewers have an acute need for hot water and have been early adopters of our hybrid solar thermal technology,” said Barry Andersen, CEO, Net Zero Impact LLC. “We proved the value of the Net Zero Impact system with our installation at Big Al Brewing earlier this year and now, with Hale’s, we’re demonstrating that it works on a large scale.”

The Net Zero Impact system, replacing the inefficient gas-fueled steam boiler, includes:

  • 480 solar thermal tubes manufactured by Kingspan Solar,
  • a one million British Thermal unit (MBtu) steam boiler,
  • a one MBtu high-efficiency hot water boiler,
  • a 1,200-gallon water storage tank,
  • heat exchangers and programmable controllers for all pump delivery systems.

Kingspan solar thermal tubes transform direct and diffuse sunlight—solar radiation available even on cold, cloudy or humid days—into useful heat in the form of hot water, capturing the sun’s energy, a critically important advantage in the Pacific Northwest’s frequently sun-starved environment.

Inside each tube, solar radiation is collected, concentrated and transferred to an insulated manifold. Super-heated water is then pumped through a heat exchanger to Hale’s 1,200-gallon storage tank. The water is then used to make delicious beer, heat the building, and provide hot water for the pub.