Maui Brewing Company Aims to Be U.S.'s First Off-Grid Brewery
With four locations on two islands, the brewery is set to produce 60,000 barrels this year.
With its solar-panel roof and rows of battery storage units, Maui Brewing Company’s primary location looks like it was transplanted from the year 2100 onto the volcanic slopes of Kihei. Its futuristic aesthetic only hints at co-owners Garrett Marrero and Melanie Oxley’s goal of making the 85,000-square-foot space the first brewery in the country to operate off-the-grid, using public utilities only as a backup.
“When we opened, we were always looking to do more with less,” Marrero says. “Initially that just meant turning off the lights when you left the room.” Today, about 90 percent of the brewery’s electricity comes from solar power.
Maui’s Double Overhead IPA, one of seven year-round brews
The facility was poised to become 100-percent energy-independent with the use of a biodiesel generator, but the beers’ success demanded more production and thus more power. “Doing something new can be challenging because you are bringing on equipment that hasn’t been used before,” Marrero says.
When Marrero and Oxley realized there wasn’t a single beer company brewing in Hawaii, they opened as a single-brew pub and restaurant in 2005, and within two years outgrew the space. Now, with four locations on two islands, the brewery is set to produce 60,000 barrels this year, and is the largest company that brews in Hawaii.
Marrero and Oxley felt it was important to include Hawaiian values of sustainability into their business. Five years ago, they committed to incorporating solar panels onto the brewery, a $9 million overhaul that hasn’t been without difficulty.
“While there is a sense of freedom in operating this way, it’s also a lot to manage,” Marrero admits. “You basically become your own power company.”
The 4,300 solar panels producing a total of 1.2 megawatts of power along the roof provide the electrical needs for their headquarters, while the Tesla Powerpack battery storage units are a backup for not-so-sunny days. The brewery has also brought in a carbon-dioxide recovery system that captures greenhouse gases generated from fermentation; instead of releasing them back into the atmosphere, it stores them to later carbonate the beer. Marrero says in the first year of use, they were able to offset a million pounds of their carbon-dioxide emissions. Currently, they capture and reuse 86 percent of their own carbon dioxide on-site.
In the near future, Marrero and Oxley plan to incorporate a wastewater system, which will help recycle their water and produce heat. A new solar thermal chiller will help mitigate their cooling costs, bringing their carbon footprint even closer to zero. “We didn’t do this to be the first or be the only,” Marrero says. “We did it because it’s the right thing to do.”