No, we’re not talking about that food coloring based disaster that’s a tradition at bars across America. We’re talking about responsible energy effecient brewing. Later this spring, you will be able to sip solar powered beer from Victory, and we couldn’t be more excited.
Harnessing the energy of the sun to power our beer-making has been a dream of ours for many years. Heck, solar power has a long history in Victory if you go way back to the mid 70’s. Just a few years after Ron and I met, when Ron’s dad was Manager of Solar Electric Programs for General Electric in Valley Forge and my dad was the Maintenance Manager of that facility, Ron’s dad invented the ingenious Barchet Nail and the Barchet Screw as cost-effective methods of efficiently interconnecting PV shingle-like panels on roofs. Without considerable government support, such photovoltaic systems proved to be practically unaffordable when federal development funding dried up after 1980.
Thus the Barchet family moved to Orange County California in 1980 where Ron’s dad began work for Applied Solar Energy Corp. as VP of Operations. Applied Solar conducted both engineering and manufacturing, growing the silicon ingots, depositing the various coatings to make solar cells, dicing the wafers into smaller “chips” and actually assembling the solar panels to be used in complete systems. Their work delivered space-quality solar cells to space solar panel manufacturers and to the major satellite builders at the time as well as large terrestrial projects like the installation at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Ron had a hand in all of this as a part-time employee and full time UCLA student, as he performed a key task in the deposition of various metals onto the sliced wafers which were to become photovoltaic cells.
As we designed our 69kW system this winter we learned some interesting things about the efficiency of solar energy conversion to electricity and how that conversion is effected by the seasons of the sun. Our new friends at SunPower Builders* have educated us that efficiency is often higher in January and February than in May, when our solar panels will be installed. However, the amount of power produced by our solar system will not rely on solar module efficiency alone. The angle at which SunPower will install the solar modules as well as the time of year are major factors. For example, our May installation and spring commissioning will be pounded by twice as much sunlight at that time as in winter months. Though in summer, the modules’ efficiency drops due to higher ambient temperatures. Annual production is the key to assessing system efficiency and output. These considerations boil down to the fact that the solar electric system here at Victory will only show a 2-3% difference in output in winter and summer months, demonstrating that the myth that solar only works in hot climates is entirely false.
When completed, our system of 345 PV modules will be generating approximately 82,000kWh of clean, green electricity each year. That’s not nearly 100% of our electricity draw here at Victory, but we feel this is a big step forward in the Victory connection with solar power that began 35 years ago!
Here’s to green beer year round!
Bill and Ron, the Brewmasters of Victory
* SunPower Builders has been doing solar power installations since 1972 and, oddly enough, are located locally in Collegeville, PA, where Ron and Bill met as 5th grade students, on a school bus in 1973.