WESTERLY, R.I. — Some leaders in Rhode Island’s beverage industry are making new investments in clean energy.
Grey Sail Brewing in Westerly announced this week it would be powered by more than 100 newly-installed rooftop solar panels, which will offset more than 30 percent of the company’s total electricity usage. The solar panels will generate 59 megawatt hours of electricity per year, according to owner Jennifer Brinton.
Over the lifetime of the system, it will generate more than $400,000 in electricity savings while reducing greenhouse emissions, according to estimates from CSG Developers and Beacon Solar that were provided to Grey Sail.
Grey Sail is not the first brewery in Rhode Island to turn to solar.
Phantom Farms Brewery, which is expected to open in Cumberland by the end of the year, is located in a building that is mostly powered by solar.
There’s a statewide effort to meet the goals of the Act on Climate, a law passed in 2021 that calls for Rhode Island to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. According to the law, the state must reach “net-zero emissions” by 2050.
Increasingly, private businesses — particularly those in the hospitality industry — have taken climate matters into their own hands.
State lawmakers passed a law in 2022, backed by hospitality leaders, that banned food-service establishments from handing out single-use straws unless a customer specifically requests one.
This year, the Lil’ Rhody Coffee Company in Pawtucket is developing a fully electric, industrial-size coffee roaster for companies to purchase that has carbon capture technology built in. The roaster will run completely off solar power. This is compared to the industry’s standard coffee roaster, which relies on fossil fuels.
Another startup, Epic Renewal, diverts 1 ton of waste from landfills each year. The company is also working with local businesses to do the same.
At Grey Sail, solar panels are the latest development in the company’s efforts to reduce their environmental footprint. For the last two years, the brewery has used a carbon dioxide capturing system during the brewing process. It was the first craft brewery in Rhode Island to implement carbon technology to capture CO² emissions from its production process and reuse it on-site to carbonate its beer.
The process uses a technology called CiCi by Earthy Lab, which claims to capture CO² waste equal to 1,500 trees annually, and avoids releasing it into the atmosphere, according to projections shared with the Globe. The system also allows Grey Sail to donate spent grains from the brewing process to local farms, said Brinton.
“Every day we are living out our dream,” said Alan Brinton, the founder of Grey Sail. “Every day we are looking at ways to lessen our environmental impact in all aspects of our operation.”