Juneau-based beer maker The Alaskan Brewing Co. has installed a $1.8 million furnace to cut its fuel costs by burning the company’s grain waste and generating it into steam that will be used to power the brewery’s major operations.
Company officials joke that the brewing company is creating beer-powered beer.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and the idea to use grain waste as a power source was born of necessity. Most breweries send the used grain, which contains high levels of protein, to farms and ranches to be used as animal feed.
After the brewery expanded in 1995 and more waste was generated, the issue of what to do with the magnitude of the spent grain became an issue. The company had attempted to ship its spent grain to buyers in the lower 48 states, but the shipping costs were astronomical and quickly became a deterrent.
Four years ago, the company began really investigating whether or not spent grain could be used as an in-house renewable energy source while simultaneously reducing costs.
The Alaskan Brewing Company contracted with a North Dakota company to specially construct a unique boiler system after receiving a $500,000 grant from the federal Rural Energy for America Program.
Once the system is completely operational, in a month or so, experts estimate the spent grain steam boiler will offset the company’s yearly energy costs by 70%, which amounts to a whopping $450,000 per year.