There are sunny days ahead at Ridgefield’s Nod Hill Brewery. Not just because its out-of-the-box success will see it nearly double its output this year, but also because it is now 100% powered by solar energy – the first craft brewer in the state to do so.
“When we were still in the planning stages, one of our missions was to have the brewery be as energy-sufficient and sustainable as possible,” said Rob Kaye, who with his son David opened Nod Hill at 137 Ethan Allen Highway in 2017. “We knew solar was an option for us to accomplish that goal.”
Over the winter, the brewery worked with Newtown’s Smart Roofs Solar to install a 287kw photovoltaic solar array on the roof of its building, offsetting 100% of its electrical usage. The solar panels also power the other businesses housed in the structure – including the elder Kaye’s long-established Riverside Fence – and push a minimum of 5,618 kwh per year back into the power grid.
“When we were getting quotes for doing this, we didn’t realize how much impact solar could actually have – not just for the brewery but also for the environment,” Kaye said. “It still blows my mind.”
Solar panel systems typically last about 30 years before needing replacement. Kaye said he was told by Smart Roofs that the carbon dioxide emissions reduction over that period can be equivalent to planting over 200,000 trees. Concurrently, the reduction of gas usage over that time should be around 900,000 gallons of gas, equal to what a car would use to drive 17 million miles.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has estimated that if 100 gigawatts of solar power are installed in the U.S., over 100 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be saved by 2030. There are roughly 80 gigawatts of solar power currently installed in the nation.
“We’re still a small microcosm,” Kaye said, “but if this turns into more and more people switching over to solar, it becomes very good for the environment – which is pretty cool.”
Nod Hill had previously changed all of its lighting to more energy-efficient LED – 21 61-watt incandescent bulbs would be needed for 25,000 hours of use, compared with one 10W LED bulb – which Kaye said he’s also proud of.
Nod Hill went with Smart Roofs because “they kind of held my hand through the whole process of understanding solar,” the brewer said. That the brewery will receive tax credits and other incentives helped seal the deal.
Installation of the solar panels took about 10 months – longer than anticipated, since the building’s roof needed replacing, Kaye said – and was financed by Greenworks Lending of Darien, whose C-PACE (Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy) funding program was also attractive.
In the meantime, Nod Hill expects to double the 1,000 barrels of beer it produced in 2018, and recently hired two salespeople as it focuses on “more intensive distribution,” he said. Expanding its taproom’s 2,400 square feet to offer a separate, 500-square-foot event room is also a possibility this year, Kaye said.
As for being the state’s only all-solar craft brewery, Nod Hill may only be able to make that claim for so long. Ryan Broderick, co-owner of Reverie Brewing Co. at 57B Church Hill Road in Newtown, said he’d also had conversations with Smart Roofs Solar, though any such work would be dependent on Reverie’s taking ownership of, rather than continuing to rent, its space – something he said could take place as early as next year.