BY JOHN HOLL
The sprawling redbrick complex on the southbound side of Routes 1 and 9 in Newark has stood for nearly 60 years as the Newark home of Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser and Bud Light. Its neon eagle atop the roof is a beacon for incoming travelers at Newark Liberty International Airport and is one of the more recognizable landmarks in the Garden State.
Now, the old brewery is a little more environmentally conscious. Monday, brewery officials gathered on the roof of the Newark factory along with state and local politicians to unveil 3,000 photovoltaic solar panels – covering more than 65,000 square feet of space – that will provide up to five percent of the brewery's electrical demand, according to officials.Touting New Jersey as the second highest solar power producing state in the country, Kristopher Scholl, general manager of the Newark brewery said the company was committed to reducing its carbon footprint and that there were plans to double the number of existing panels on the roof in the coming years. Currently, California leads the nation in solar production. Anheuser-Busch and Wisconsin-based Orion Energy Systems, which designed, installed and will operate the panels, said they would create more then 525,000 kilowatt hours each year, enough to power about 60 average New Jersey homes. The Newark brewery also uses a system called Bio-Energy Recovery System (BERS) that turns nutrients in wastewater into biogas that provides up to 15 percent of fuel to power the brewery's boilers.
Brewery officials were not able to provide a number of the total energy usage of the Newark location, but said it recycles more than 120,000 tons of spent grain from the brewery for use as animal feed at local farms and that 98 percent of all its produced solid waste is recycled.
Renewable energy is nothing new for many American breweries. In 2008 Sierra Nevada Brewing Company of California installed more than 6,700 solar panels on its roof that produces 1.4 megawats of power for the Brewery. It also employs fuel cell technology and heat and CO2 recovery to reduce its energy needs. Similarly, new Belgium Brewing of Ft. Collins, Co., uses many of the same technologies and also has wind turbines that power the brewery.
A hundred years ago, brewing was the fourth-largest industry in Newark and the seventh largest in the state. Beers like Ballantine, Rheingold and Pabst were local names and sources of pride. The one-two punch of prohibition and anti-German sentiment during World War I shuttered many breweries or forced them to relocate. Rep. Donald M. Payne (D-NJ) who spoke at the press conference Monday morning recalled working for Ballantine in the 1950s on everything from the bottling line to delivery routes.
"Now, everything is automated," he said.
He joked that by using solar energy Anheuser-Busch was "making Bud Light even lighter."
State Assemblyman John McKeon went one step further, recycling a joke he used at an Anheuser-Busch event years earlier. He said that if Anheuser-Busch didn't have the commitment to green technology and use of New Jersey resources, like water from local reservoirs it would be a lesser product and "we would have to call it Miller."
The crowd, which included Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, mostly groaned.
However, Miller Brewing Co., the largest US competitor to Anheuser-Busch is also on the clean energy bandwagon, and also uses Orion Energy Systems. In materials handed out at the press conference on Monday, Orion Energy Systems said that one Miller Brewing facility saves more than $127,000 annually in energy costs creating 2,122,751 Kilowatt Hours annually.
Linda Diedrich, a spokeswoman for Orion did not have a complete figure for savings at all Miller breweries readily available on Monday.
The 88-acre Anheuser-Busch brewery opened in Newark 1951 and now produces more than 7 million barrels (217 million gallons) of beer each year. Popular brands including flagships Budweiser and Bud Light along with Rolling Rock, Michelob Ultra and Natural Ice are brewed and shipped throughout the East Coast and packaged for military export.
In part to projects like the on unveiled in Newark on Monday, Scholl said that one in six of Anheuser-Busch beers produces is made with renewable energy.