Terrapin Beer’s newest sustainability initiative: brewing beer powered by the sun

Later this fall, Terrapin Beer Co. will begin brewing beer 100% powered by the sun. 

Within weeks workers will begin plastering some 1,000 solar panels on the 45,000 square-foot Athens, Ga., brewery’s roof as well as on sun shades that will be erected over portions of its parking lot. The solar array is projected to offset about 30% of Terrapin’s total energy consumption, or about the amount of energy used to power its brewing operations, says Dustin Watts, Terrapin’s president.

The panels will be installed in partnership with Atlanta-based renewable power company Cherry Street Energy, which will own, operate and maintain the array and sell the power generated back to Terrapin. The brewery is projected to offset up to 339 tons of carbon dioxide, which saves the equivalent of 362 acres of U.S. forest in one year and equates to taking 65 passenger cars off the road each year, says Samantha Lenard, Cherry Street Energy’s director of sustainability.

“We are thrilled to partner with Terrapin to help with their commitment to be a leader in sustainability,” Lenard says. “Our model allows Terrapin to avoid the upfront cost of the solar infrastructure, and solely pay for the power generated at competitive rates to their current utility.”

For Terrapin, the solar project is part of a much broader sustainability initiative.

“The very idea of sustainability was originally ingrained in our DNA, and it’s something we’ve always been passionate about,” Watts says. “When we look at what we’re all about as a company, it’s about making great beer, the outdoors, recreation and music. Love for the outdoors is at the core of who we are at Terrapin, as a brewery and as individual employees. We look to do what’s best for our communities and for the environment because it matters to each of us. It’s that simple.”

The MillerCoors-owned brewer, founded in 2002, has grown each year since its inception, bolstered by expanding distribution into new markets. And as it has grown, the brewery has ramped up its sustainability efforts to ensure it remains an effective environmental steward.

Its community has taken notice. Terrapin recently was named business of the year in Athens-Clarke County for waste reduction and recycling.

Terrapin’s sustainability efforts, dubbed Terraprint, encompass the brewery’s consideration for its effect on the local watershed, energy use, soil quality and other resource consumption. Among its other sustainability initiatives:

  • Terrapin was the first craft brewery in Georgia to package its beer in recyclable aluminum cans, and all of its cartons and case boxes are made of recycled material and are 100% recyclable.
  • The brewery installed a wastewater pretreatment facility that mitigates strain on its municipal treatment plant and ultimately contributes to improved quality of the local watershed.
  • It also saves water with equipment that captures condensate within its steam line and via the implementation of a new clean-in-place system on brewing and fermentation tanks.
  • It has installed LED lighting with automated sensors in its warehouse and high-efficiency on-demand boilers in the brewery.
  • Terrapin has instituted a no-idling policy across its Athens campus.
  • Byproduct from the brewery’s wastewater pretreatment facility is composted and returned to the brewery landscape for beautification, plant health and erosion mitigation.
  • And its Ales for Trails program helps enhance outdoor experiences in the communities where Terrapin is sold. 

“Every decision we make at the brewery has an effect, and we continue to look for opportunities to be better,” Watts says. “A lot of people make beer, and these days a lot of people make good beer. We want to stand for something bigger than beer.”