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Beer helps power Alaskan brewery

An Alaskan brewery has installed a unique boiler system in order to cut its fuel costs. It purchased a $1.8 million furnace that burns the company's spent grain — the waste accumulated from the brewing process.
By JOSHUA BERLINGER Modified: February 7, 2013 at 9:38 pm •  Published: February 8, 2013
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/articleid/3753053/1/pictures/1947089">Photo - The outside of the Alaskan Brewing Co. is shown Jan. 23 in Juneau, Alaska.  AP Photo
The outside of the Alaskan Brewing Co. is shown Jan. 23 in Juneau, Alaska. AP Photo

“We had to be a little more innovative just so that we could do what we love to do, but do it where we're located,” Alaskan Brewing co-founder Geoff Larson said.

But the company was barely turning a profit by selling its spent grain. Alaskan Brewery gets $60 for every ton of it sent to farms in the Lower 48, but it costs them $30 to ship each ton.

So four years ago, brewery officials started looking at whether it could use spent grain as an in-house, renewable energy source and reduce costs at the same time.

While breweries around the world use spent grain as a co-fuel in energy recovery systems, “nobody was burning spent grain as a sole fuel source for an energy recovery system, for a steam boiler,” says Brandon Smith, the company's brewing operations and engineering manager.

It contracted with a North Dakota company to build the special boiler system after the project was awarded nearly $500,000 in grant funds from the federal Rural Energy for America Program.

The craft brewery is expecting big savings once the system is fully operational in about a month's time. Smith estimates that the spent grain steam boiler will offset the company's yearly energy costs by 70 percent, which amounts to about $450,000 a year.


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