To make beer, you need water. A lot of hot water.

Historically, brewers have used natural gas, electricity or other methods to boil water in their massive brewing tanks.

But at Hale’s Ales in Fremont, founder Mike Hale is taking a different approach. The maker of Troll Porter and Mongoose IPA just installed a new solar thermal tube system from Seattle’s Net Zero Impact.

The system uses solar thermal tubes to transform direct and diffuse sunlight into heat, with Net Zero Impact noting that the technology is more efficient than photovoltaic cells at capturing the sun’s energy.

Mike Hale and Net Zero's Barry Andersen at Hale's Brewery.

The 480 tubes, developed by Kingspan Solar, collect solar radiation and then transfer it to an insulated manifold that’s used to heat the water.

On Friday, Hale’s lowered a 14-foot tall, 1,200-pound tank through a hole in the roof, with the entire system designed to deliver 3,000 to 4,000 gallons of solar-heated water each day.

Hale’s estimates that the new solar thermal system will save the company about $15,000 annually over its traditional gas powered boiler, with Mike Hale saying it is part of an ongoing effort to create an environmentally-friendly brewery.

This isn’t the first solar thermal system that Net Zero has installed at a Seattle area beer maker. Earlier this year, Big Al’s in Seattle’s White Center started making beer with solar-heated water.

The system at Hale’s is the largest installation yet for Net Zero Impact.

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  • Jack

    But will that savings be passed on to the consumer?  Will the beer remain competitively priced or drop according to related cost?  Hmmm..  I like Mongoose IPA, sold at Costco, and it’s already cheaper than most.  Sounds like it’s going to be good all around.

    • Joe the Googler

      I doubt there is a savings, of the cash kind anyway.  I’m pretty sure that 480 tubes, that 1200 pound tank and the installation labor costs a LOT more than $15K.  They didn’t say in the article but it would be good to know the break even period.   Usually for these kinds of systems, it is well longer than 10 years.  If break even was 10 years or less, you would be seeing a lot more of these going in.  

      So, no, don’t expect a price cut but you will be getting a lower carbon footprint beverage.

      • Fremonster

        One thing they don’t really mention in the article is a new high efficiency boiler they put in as part of the overall system “package”. It all helps to bring the ROI down to around 4-5 years.

      • SHWguy

        The numbers don’t come close to adding up. 30 tubes will heat around 80 gallons of water  to 120F on a nice summer day and that takes all day. That’s around 1200 gallons on the best day, maybe 700- 800 gallons average per day. they will be lucky to save $2000 dollars next year from the solar. I’m all for solar but these numbers are crazy!

        • Fremonster

          You are right. The solar alone is not the best investment for a residential application, but a commercial application where the customer can take advantage of the federal grant, the local gas company grants AND take advantage of the high efficiency boiler then it all adds up to incredible savings.

          I have no advantage in taking this viewpoint but I did see it work at Big Al brewing. I was a skeptic but if you learn about what this company is doing then you’ll realize it’s good for the business.

          • Fremonster

            The business of solar energy as a whole that is.

  • NathanDetjen

    Would be nice if they spent that much effort on their food!

  • Anonymous

    Don’t give Fremont extra credit.  The area where Hale’s is located isn’t in Fremont.  It’s located in that strange nether region between Fremont and Ballard, “Fre-Ball” 

    • johnhcook

      Good point. I’ve always called that area: Freelard…

  • james lewis

    Anything that saves on energy has my vote. Now I have to check out Mongoose @ Costco and see if they went through all that trouble for nothing

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