In this modern climate, we’re more aware than ever of the intersection between green (money) and green (energy) — and smart businesses are embracing practices that save on both fronts. Our quarterly “Go Green, Save Green” series shines a spotlight on our service area’s pioneers in innovative commercial energy use.
Our past stories covered green construction at Cedar Park coworking space T-Werx and Dripping Springs ISD’s powerful conservation program with Time-of-Use Rate integration. This quarter features Save the World Brewery in Marble Falls.
Nestled off Highway 281 in Marble Falls is a brewery with a mission: Not only is Save the World Brewing Co. 100 percent philanthropic, but it’s aiming to be 100 percent solar-powered, too.
Philanthropy and environmental sustainability go hand in hand for co-owners Dave and Quynh Rathkamp, the husband-and-wife team who opened the Hill Country brewery in 2014.
“[Philanthropy and sustainability] tie together in the basic sense of doing good,” Dave Rathkamp said. “We should try not only to help out our fellow man, but we also need to be good stewards of the world we live in. It’s not a matter of just one or the other.”
Doing good is integral to Save the World’s business model: All of the brewery’s profits are donated to charities that address basic human needs, like Food for the Hungry, Meals on Wheels, and Habitat for Humanity.
Sustainable and energy efficient operations are also at the brewery’s core, and they’re helping the business save money and energy.
“Our electric bills are amazingly low, almost the same as our [700-square-foot] cabin’s,” Quynh Rathkamp said. “And this facility is 8,000 square feet. It’s the solar panels.”
On average, about 85 percent of Save the World’s power is supplied by its rooftop solar array. On good days, the panels generate more power than the brewery needs — and because the business is part of PEC’s interconnected network, that surplus energy is returned to PEC’s system and is credited back to Save the World on its monthly energy bill.
“We have a monitor we can watch that displays minute-by-minute production and consumption,” Dave Rathkamp said. “I like those sunny days, because it’s like, ‘You made ten dollars today!'”
The Rathkamps aspire for the business to become 100 percent solar-powered as they continue to develop the brewery’s grounds. In the meantime, they’ve found the panels to be low-to-no-maintenance and are enjoying the savings as they wait for the technology to pay for itself.
“Solar is a big investment,” Qunyh Rathkamp said. “If you work out the funding and depreciation, it’s about a 5- to 6-year return on that investment.”
“I think businesses should definitely pursue solar,” Dave Rathkamp said. “Look into the company that’s doing the installation, and which manufacturers they recommend. It’s not just about who’s got the cheapest price out there.”
Quynh Rathkamp agreed. “Businesses should also look into grants and loans they can apply for,” she said. “We were fortunate enough to be a recipient of the USDA grant through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), and I know that PEC offers some low-interest loans for renewables as well.”
As far as the Rathkamps are concerned, the future of renewable-powered businesses is bright.
“From the financial standpoint, being sustainable is actually going to help your bottom line,” Quynh Rathkamp said. “Up front, yes, sustainable technology is a high-capital outlay, but down the line, it’s definitely going to pay for itself and then some.”
In addition to the solar array, Save the World Brewing saves energy and money by:
- Sanitizing brewing equipment not with harsh chemicals but with ozonated water, which breaks down into oxygen and water
- Using LED lighting and an efficient water cooling/heating system
- Carbonating beer naturally with yeast and sugar, which saves carbon dioxide
- Cooling the brewhouse using an evaporative cooler rather than air conditioning
- Providing an electric vehicle charging station for customers
- Repurposing pallet wood into furniture
- Capturing graywater for irrigation