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Brewing beer with solar power

Optimizing the use of energy is an ongoing challenge for industrial companies, also for the beverage industry. The Dutch brewery group Heineken is integrating large solar power facilities featuring an area of 7,850 m² of solar collectors based on know-how supplied by the Austrian company AEE for sites in Austria, Spain and Portugal.

Large amounts of thermal and electrical energy are required to produce beer. At present this energy is primarily derived from fossil fuels, says Matthäus Hubmann of the Working Group for Renewable Energy – Institute for Sustainable Technologies AEC INTEC, explaining the starting situation. Thermal energy consumption per hectoliter of brewed beer ranges from 16.7 to 33.3 kWh, and the additional use of electrical energy totals 7.5 to 11.5 kWh.

Integration of solar power

The experts of AEE INTEC are convinced that all thermally supplied process in brewing and malting which would require heat at temperatures of 25 to 105 degrees Celsius can be operated efficiently by means of conventional flat plate and evacuated tube solar collectors. The company wants to demonstrate this within the context of the European R&D project “SolarBrew” to integrate solar power in the brewing industry. In addition to AEE INTEC and Heineken, the consortium also includes solar collector manufacturer Sunmark Solutions A/S and GEA Brewery Systems GmbH as partners in the field of plant and machine construction.

The Austrian brewery Göss alone produces about one million hectoliters of beer each year, according to AEE project manager Ewald Selvicka. The Austrian brewing site of the Heineken subsidiary Brau Union Österreich is also being involved in the implementation of the demonstration project in addition to sites in Valencia, Spain and Vialonga, Portugal.  Since 2013 1,500 m² of flat plate solar collectors linked to a 200 m³ hot water buffer storage tank have already been supplying energy for the mashing process in Styria.

A flat plate collector area of about 1,600 m² is planned for the brewery in Valencia, Spain. In this case solar energy will be used to support the pasteurization process. The concept of a solar facility to heat the drying air used in the drying of green malt in a drying kiln is being implemented in Vialonga. Flat plate solar collectors comprising an area of 4,700 m² and linked to a 400 m³ unpressurized energy storage system are to be deployed.

Coverage ratios

The solar coverage ratio for the three processes totals about 20 percent for malting, approximately 30 percent for mashing and 45 percent for pasteurizing. The entire installed output of the solar facilities to supply the three low temperature processes is about 5 MW.

Due to the fact that all breweries and malting plants generally have similar energy supply structures, the project partners expect a multiplier effect within the industry on the basis of the demonstration project. Implementation and operational experience is to be gained from accompanying monitoring up until the year 2015.

 Compliments of ABA Invest in Austria – A Member of the EACCNY