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MillerCoors: MillerCoors Irwindale Solar Array

MillerCoors secured and implemented the installation of a very large PV system with demonstrable cost savings and environmental benefits. This is an excellent example of thinking lean and green, especially in California, which is facing unprecedented water shortages and rising energy costs.

MillerCoors, a joint venture between SABMiller and Molson Coors Brewing Company, formed in 2008. Since then, the company has been committed to finding new and innovative ways to brew beer more sustainably. On March 12, 2015, MillerCoors commissioned a photovoltaic solar array with over 10,000 panels at their Irwindale brewery in California, the largest of any brewery in the country, according to the company.

For nearly 10 years, MillerCoors researched the benefits solar energy could have at their facility. The high initial cost of PV solar panels and reliability of the panels proved an initial challenge. However, the solar industry’s technology has continually improved over the years, and the panels produced today are much more reliable and efficient, producing more energy per panel. The increased reliability and efficiency, reduced cost of installation, and federal and state incentives justified this project through improved savings and a higher internal return rate.

The PV solar array project came about as an opportunity to reduce the company’s carbon footprint as well as mitigate increasing electrical costs. The installation of the PV solar array also significantly increased MillerCoors’ energy independence.

The company began by clearing 10 acres of land to accommodate the installation of the entire system including three large transformers, four inverters, 10,620 panels, and 3,500 feet of copper wiring to interconnect back to the brewery facility. MillerCoors bored several thousand holes to support the construction of the system. They also modified their existing medium voltage electrical system to accommodate the tie-in to the solar array.

The solar panels have the capacity to produce up to 3.2 megawatts DC of energy each hour. This provides enough energy to meet on average 8% percent of the Irwindale Brewery’s electrical needs. The array also generates electricity without producing any carbon emissions, and helps offset electricity use on the local utility grid.

The system provides approximately 5.5 million kilowatt-hours of renewable and sustainable energy each year. By installing photovoltaic panels, MillerCoors has seen immediate benefits, including reducing the company’s emissions of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. The reduction in emissions is due to reduced usage of other pollutant sources to generate energy. Over the course of 20 years, MillerCoors anticipates seeing emissions offsets of 132,400,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, 91,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides, 23,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide, and 26,000 pounds of particulates.

In addition to helping provide cleaner air, MillerCoors has been able to reduce water usage. The solar array replaced irrigated landscape and reduces the water impacts of local power plant cooling, with the goal of reducing consumption by 695,100,000 gallons over a 30-year period.