Solar Is Only Part of the Solution, the Other Parts Might Surprise You

Some people look at solar energy from a purely environmental perspective. Others might acknowledge the benefits it has to our planet but focuses primarily on the long-term cost savings. Most people, however, tend to fall somewhere between the two sides of the spectrum, embracing solar energy for both the environmental and financial aspects of the technology. While your friends at Golden Solar are certainly doing what we can by assisting the fine people and companies of Colorado with their solar energy needs, we would be remiss if we didn’t recognize other green technologies that are playing their part in the solution. As a matter of fact, many of the innovations in the green technology space are surprising in both context and application. While these are just a couple of the examples available, they collectively demonstrate the ingenuity of the many different people working toward the same goal — finding cost-effective, innovative solutions to our ever-increasing energy demands.

A New Meaning to Microbrew

An ice-cold beer might be synonymous with tailgating at a football game or maybe a weekend barbecue, but rarely have beer and the environment been seen as mutually beneficial. The Alaskan Brewing Company, however, has been actively trying to change that since 1998. Recognizing the pristine location of its headquarters in Juneau, the company uses a series of technological innovations to not only clean up the brewing process but actually remove excess CO2 emissions from the local environment. While the efforts to eliminate its CO2 footprint and preserve water are certainly commendable, it’s the company’s unique Spent Grain Steam Boiler that’s especially interesting to those in the clean energy industry. Although not common knowledge, the brewery process has had an age-old problem when it comes to disposing of the spent grain left over from every batch produced. Most breweries distribute their spent grain as feed for cattle to local farmers. However, since there are no cattle in Juneau, the Alaskan Brewing Company had to choose between shipping out its spent grain or developing a new technology to process it. Not wanting to increase its carbon footprint by relying on trucks to ship its spent grain, the company created a technology that allowed it to fuel the brewery’s steam boiler with that spent grain. By the following year, the technology was operational and the Alaskan Brewing Company was well on its way to reducing its overall oil use by more than 65 percent. So, the next time you tip back a cold one, remember that even brewers are doing their part to create ecologically friendly energy sources.

Mirror, Mirror on the Farm

Not to be outdone, the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project outside Las Vegas is putting vanity to work by creating a mirror farm, 10,000 mirrors strong, to help power the insatiable energy demands of Sin City. Once again creating a unique technology born from the demands of the local environment, the farm is made up of thousands of mirrors, each the size of a small house, spread out in a series of concentric circles in the middle of the Nevada desert. Each mirror has been individually calibrated to follow the path of the sun and reflect the light toward a massive receiver filled with salt. The molten salt retains an internal temperature of almost 1,000 degrees F, even during the night when the receiver is collecting no reflected sunlight. The mirror farm instantly creates power by releasing heat stored within the salt, turning water into steam that drives generators and creates energy. Although the project comes with a hefty $1 billion price tag, it’s still more cost-efficient than building a new coal or nuclear plant, with far less environmental impact. At Golden Solar, we like to relay stories of other organizations accelerating sustainable energy technologies that will ultimately help both the environment and the wallet. As always, we will continue to do our part for our neighbors throughout Colorado.

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