Solar panels bring light to ‘Devon Darkness’ ale

It may be just 20 months since family brewery Hanlons opened its new facility, but it’s already delivering on its promise to source as much of its ingredients as sustainably as possible.

After starting production of its award-winning ales using water from the borehole on its farm near Exeter, Hanlons’ next ‘green’ step forward has been to generate the electricity to power its machinery, bar and kitchen from a tailored-made solar PV system on the brewery’s roof.

“It all goes back to when we started planning the building,” says Dan Taylor, Director of Hanlons Brewery, whose family also owns the farm where the brewery is built. “We were determined to do all that we could to minimise our environmental impact, so – in addition to using water from our own borehole and keeping mileage to a minimum – we specified that our building should have a pitched roof in order to easily install solar panels in the future.”

Hanlons contacted SunGift Energy for advice. “This turned out to be an excellent decision,” adds Dan. “SunGift convinced us to wait until they had fully monitored and analysed our energy-usage patterns in order to match our solar system to our specific requirements. The result is that we use almost all of the energy our system generates, without needing to feed much electricity back to the grid.”

Hanlons’ situation was particularly tricky because – like many businesses – their district network operator company (Western Power Distribution) restricts the amount of energy that the company is allowed to feed back to the grid. By closely analysing the ‘peaks and troughs’ of Hanlons’ energy needs, SunGift was able to help the company decide on the ideal system that would suit its needs.

“Environmental considerations are very important to us,” comments Dan. “And from a business perspective it’s also very important that we do not waste any electricity that we generate. We originally thought that a 50 kW system would be the best solution for us, but as SunGift’s detailed analysis showed that a 30 kW system would better suit our needs and result in less waste that’s what we settled on.”

The company’s east/west-facing building, combined with its steady energy usage throughout the day meant that it was ideally suited to having panels installed on both of its roofs. It’s panels now generate electricity to power the brewery’s pumps, heaters, coolers, lights, bar, kitchen and offices.

“Solar systems work to their optimum when they match a business’s exact requirements,” says Oliver Grogono, SunGift’s head designer. “We closely monitored their energy-usage patterns, daily peaks and any other issues. The detailed modeling and upfront hard work has certainly paid dividends, as it takes out the guesswork and means that Hanlons now has a tailor-made solar PV system.”

“Delaying the installation and taking our time to get things right meant that we could really look after Hanlons’ interests. We were able to calculate that a bigger system would actually have been less financially attractive due to the grid constraints.”

SunGift specified a 30 kW solar PV system using 109 x JA Solar 275w panels and SolarEdge inverters, which will reduce Hanlons CO2 emissions by 12 tonnes per year. In addition to powering the brewery’s machinery, the solar panels also provide electricity for Hanlons’ bar and kitchen, which host office meetings, business lunches, private parties, and Friday-evening social gatherings.