Food Service & Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Sustainability

Hard cider maker installs 200 solar panels

October 28, 2019
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Virtue Cider hard cider solar array Fennville aerial photo
Courtesy Virtue Cider

A cidery in the region is greener than ever thanks to a new solar array.

Virtue Cider in Fennville recently completed the installation of a 78-kilowatt solar array next to its cider houses.

This will lead to half of Virtue Cider's purchased electricity coming from renewable sources, equivalent to 150,000 pounds of CO2 avoided each year, according to the company.

The solar array includes 200 panels installed on the north side of Cider House 1, which will help offset the company’s already-low electricity use for its cider making and farm operations.

The array should capture over 100,000 kilowatt-hours of renewable electricity each year, helping to offset 58% of Virtue’s current electricity usage.

“For generations, Michigan farmers have worked from sunrise to sunset,” said Gregory Hall, founder, Virtue Cider. “Now Virtue Farm works from dawn to dusk generating green electricity with our new solar panels.”

Virtue’s cider houses were built in 2012 to use as little energy as possible. Cider House 1, which includes the taproom and bottle shop, as well as the apple pressing and barrel-aging rooms, has no central cooling or heating.

Cider House 2, which holds 22 2,000-gallon fermentation tanks, also has no central cooling or heating and was built with a recessed floor underground to maintain an ambient temperature year round. The ciders also can ferment naturally without other energy expenditures, such as heating or cooling the tanks.

The installation of solar panels at Virtue Cider is part of a larger company-wide commitment from Brewers Collective, the craft business unit of Anheuser-Busch, in which all craft partner breweries and hard cider makers plan to have solar panels installed by the end of next year.

Virtue worked with ForeFront Power and PCI Solar to design and install the solar array.

“Brewers Collective made a unique commitment to solar energy across the country, and Virtue Cider is one of the first craft partners to reap the benefits of this initiative,” said Paul Walker, CEO, ForeFront Power.

Construction was completed in August, and interconnection to the electrical grid was completed this month. The system is now generating electricity.

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