Maui Brewing’s Roadmap to Electric Grid Independence – Mar/April 2019

Maui Brewing Company is Hawaii’s largest brewery. The Lahaina, Hawaii based brewery, located on the island of Maui, produces 60,000 barrels per year, distributes to 23 states, and is making a massive move toward being independent of their local power grid. Maui Brewing expects to achieve this grid independence by early 2019. “We use the term grid independent, and not off the grid, because we will actually still be connected to the grid. The grid will be a backup for us, but grid independence is definitely the pursuit” says Maui founder Garrett Marrero, who added that it was always a dream of theirs to get to the point of providing their own green energy.

Marrero and Company were already implementing simple measures to support their neighbors and giving back to the community, such as giving spent grain to farmers, supporting of local agriculture with use of local ingredients in their beers and restaurants whenever possible and giving used grain bags to local organizations to use as trash bags for community cleanups.

Maui Brewing will actually be grid independent later this year, but due to State tax laws in Hawaii, they are not allowed to make the leap until early 2019, though it is these same tax laws that also benefit the brewery in the form of rebates and lower energy costs. This is especially important as an island brewery whose costs are often double that of mainland breweries, in addition to paying the highest energy costs in the nation. Though it is further down the road, Maui Brewing is working toward brewing some of their beer with reclaimed or treated water. The brewery currently treats all of its wastewater and screens it, sending a very small amount of sewage through a two-inch line, thus putting clean reclaimed water down instead and “very often this reclaimed water is cleaner than the municipal water” says Marrero.

At this point, around 50% of the brewhouse roof is covered in solar panels. The remaining measures will be completed by early 2019 with Tesla Power packs providing back up power (which will be online next month or early August), along with biodiesel generators from Cummins and biodiesel made by Pacific BioDiesel. Combined, these steps are what will allow the brewery it’s grid independence, though their efforts do not stop there. Within the last few weeks, Maui Brewing’s CO2 recovery system has come online giving Marrero and company the ability to recover the natural CO2 expelled during the fermentation process, often coming out cleaner than the CO2 they purchase for their tanks. During the first year alone they are projected to save 600,000 pounds of CO2, not to mention avoiding the damage the CO2 normally causes to the atmosphere when it is vented. When you take into account producing the CO2 from a petroleum plant and the cost of delivering the CO2 from the neighboring island of Oahu via boat and truck, the ability to recover the spent CO2 will drastically reduce their carbon footprint.

The next phase of the overall project is their solar thermal phase, the process of heating their water via the sun. Installation will start in the next couple of months, reducing their gas usage by about 50%. “The suns power will also be used for a solar chiller, giving usability to make chill water as well from the thermal unit.” Says Marrero. This will allow Maui Brewing to not have to fire up their boilers for any cleaning aspects, thus continuing the energy savings.

Maui Brewing’s relationships with its neighbors, as well as Maui Electric, will also see benefits. Since the brewery will still technically be connected to Maui Electric’s grid, various partnerships are in the works between Maui Brewing and Maui Electric that will be mutually beneficial in the future, helping both companies achieve the common goal of achieving sustainable green energy in Hawaii, a goal the State of Hawaii is itself looking to achieve by 2045. All of this grid independence will allow the brewery to be available for the community in times of need, such as the recent flooding on the island of Kawaii and the occasional hurricane “at some point we’ll have another level of disaster and the community will have us as a resource, even if it’s something as simple as providing clean water. If shelter is needed we could potentially help with that. If we need refrigerated storage for food items, we’ll have that as well, because we’ll be operating as a dried independent company at that point. We’ve always been philanthropies, this just allows us to do that much more.”

This is part of why Marrero says it’s important to support local, as companies like MillerCoors and ABInBev are going to be able to respond as quickly as local businesses typically can. Breweries can be a great community resource in the fun times, but also an invaluable one in the hard times. Over their 13 years of operation, environmental stewardship has always been at the forefront Maui Brewing’s goals “I was raised with that kind of recycling mentality growing up in San Diego and giving back to the land,” says Marrero. “It is the essence of the Hawaiian idea of Ohana, or family.”