They may not look as pretty as the twisting, green-leaf covered branches of Vermont Hard Cider Company, LLC’s, apple trees, but the cider maker's new solar orchard—featuring 26 of AllEarth Renewable’s AllSun Trackers—will provide about 10 percent to 15 percent of its energy needs. The roughly 147 kilowatt array will allow Woodchuck to source around 40 percent of its overall energy use from a number of renewable sources, including ‘cow pie’ power that it purchases from Green Mountain Energy.
“Sustainability efforts like this are at the core of our mission,” says Vermont Hard Cider CEO Bret Williams, perhaps with a bit of cheekiness. “To be able to tap into local renewable energy is good for our business, the local economy, and the planet.”
Since the pole-mounted arrays are on dual axis trackers with GPS units they can produce more power than modules mounted on a roof in a fixed position. The solar project will produce approximately 210,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually.
Woodchuck is also procuring another 25 percent of its energy through Green Mountain Power’s “Cow Power” program, which is not actually a bunch of cows walking on treadmills. Instead it's a program that produces electricity by harvesting the methane gas from cow manure and using it to power generators providing electricity to the grid.
The company is joining a growing number of companies making beer, wine and other spirits like cider across the country that are going solar to supply some of the power for the brewing and fermenting processes. Some of the others include Odell Brewing Co.’s 77 kilowatt rooftop array in Fort Collins, Col., Big Al Brewing’s solar hot water heating system in Seattle and North Fork Brewery’s 8 kilowatt array in Deming, Wash. Heck, even the macrobrews are putting solar on their roofs, like Anheuser-Busch’s 585 kilowatt and 525 kilowatt arrays on its brewery in Newark, N.J.
And like many of the other breweries and wineries, Woodchuck also is working to reduce its other environmental impacts. For instance, the company works with the utility and other local businesses to shut down during peak events. This helps Green Mountain Power save enough energy to eliminate the need for another power plant in the region, Woodchuck says. The cider company also was able to reduce its use of water to 1 gallon of water for every 1 gallon of cider produced. It contends that traditional brewing methods can use 6 gallons of water for every one gallon of beer produced.