Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A State-Wide Discussion

Here we have analysis from Madison about an article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel regarding a brewery in LaCrosse providing energy matter to an energy utility in Minnesota that serves Wisconsin. Whew!

You can read the article yourselves, but the gist is this: City Brewery and Gunderson Lutheran Hospital have won a $250,000 grant from Wisconsin-based Focus on Energy. Based on a system of re-capturing energy from wastewater generated in the brewing process used by many large breweries, City Brewery is providing the hospital with biogas to be burned in the hospital's new biogas generator to produce electricity; the electricity generated will be credited back to a Minnesota energy utility that serves the LaCrosse area.

This is exactly the type of localized synergy that we should be encouraging, so it is refreshing to see creative solutions being rewarded. There is little reason why other breweries cannot supply local biogas generators and thereby provide a source of green energy for their communities.

What is biogas?
Biogas typically refers to a gas produced by the biological breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen. [It] is comprised primarily of methane and carbon dioxide. ... The methane in biogas gives it the ability to be used as a fuel. The combustion of which releases energy.[cite]
In other words, without oxygen the breakdown of organic matter by the beer fermentation process results in wastewater saturated with gaseous by-products such as methane and CO2. Not surprisingly, Anheuser-Busch, the world's largest brewer, is the world's largest user of technology to separate the gas from the wastewater. In fact, by using biogas "Anheuser-Busch breweries avoided more than 258 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels by using this renewable fuel." [cite]

The Beer Institute has produced a compelling publication highlighting all of the ways that breweries can and are reducing their energy footprint; you can view this document here. This publication mentions that outside of biogas, another brewing process can help provide alternative energy resources. Coors has been the leader in extracting the ethanol from waste-beer to be blended with gasoline; in fact they produce over 3 million gallons of ethanol of year to offset our reliance on foreign oil. Moreover, brewers frequently reuse the CO2 derived from the fermenting process to carbonate their beers.

Thus, there are many ways that our local breweries can help our local environments. It is nice to see them being rewarded for these efforts.

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