Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Where the sun chills the beer

A spotlight on going green ...

If you've had the chance, say on a brewery tour in Cherry Hill or a beer event somewhere, to talk to the folks at Flying Fish Brewing about their plans to take up new digs in Somerdale, then perhaps you know they want to put solar panels on the building to supplement their electric power demands.

Word is that FF's hopes to partner with the sun have run into an environmental glitch concerning the building, leaving their plans for the solar panels up in the air. That's just a minor status update, not the final word, so stand by.

However, there is a place just outside Atlantic City where the sun does play a role in beer.

For more 2 1/2 months now, the Joe Canal's packaged goods store in Egg Harbor Township has been chilling the beer in the cold box, running the lights and everything else that needs juice, using a 255 kW solar panel system – 1,245 of the obsidian-looking panels distributed over a parking lot carport, the building's roof and an area behind the building.

Owner Stuart Stromfeld says the panels went into service at the beginning of July and can provide nearly 85 percent of the store's electrical power needs. (Stuart graciously took for a phone interview a couple days after Labor Day, as he was heading to Philadelphia airport to catch a flight to Tuscany, Italy.)

The cost advantages for the long run are obvious. It's not cheap – 65-grand a year – to power cold box space that measures 60 feet by 20 feet by 20 feet and sits in the center of the store. It always needs to always be on, of course, to keep shelves of beer and wine refrigerated.

Stromfeld says the solar panels will pare the electric bill sharply. But they're also an environmentally conscious move, and that was a factor in the decision to have them installed. Plans down the road include fitting Stromfeld's second Joe Canal's location across town with the solar panels.

Brite Idea Energy of Egg Harbor Township installed the panels. The longer days of summer provide more power production, but "actually in winter time we do very good with production because the panels stay cooler," says Christopher Brown, sales manager for Brite Idea.

Brown says Stromfeld's store was a two-year project, from design and engineering work, getting regulatory agency approvals, and then installation.

"It's been a showpiece project for us," he says.

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