Wicklow Wolf’s move to cover the entire roof of its 1,580sq m (17,000sq ft) Newtownmountkennedy brewery with solar panels may have arisen from a desire to be more sustainable, but the recently completed installation also makes in immediate economic sense for craft beer retailers, according to chief executive Quincey Fennelly.
The first Irish solar-powered craft brewery estimates that the 120kW solar panels, which produce around 107,000kWh a year, will save around 30 tonnes of carbon emissions per year, while also reducing its costs at a time when the energy prices rise.
“This results in about 60 percent saving on our electricity bill,” said Mr Fennelly, who cofounded Wicklow Wolf with Simon Lynch in 2014. “The going rate is about 42 cents per kWh. We pay 12 cents . This represents a very significant savings.”
The project, which has been on the company’s “wishlist” for a long time, was provided by Astatine, a “decarbonization partner” of businesses that finance the installation of solar panels through a corporate power purchase agreement . This means Wicklow Wolf buys the energy produced from the roof by Astatine in an arrangement with “very low upfront costs” and a 20-year repayment period.
“We’re paying a better rate now. The timing couldn’t have been better, but it was an accident. We should have done it.”
Although Wicklow Wolf buys the balance of the electricity it needs from the network, on a day like last Friday the roof is all it needs, with “zero energy” coming from the network. “Obviously in the winter, it’s not as efficient as it is in the summer.”
This summer’s extreme heat points to challenges ahead, however. Drought conditions are affecting brewers around the world, especially in Mexico, where President Andrés Manuel López Obrador last week called on brewers to halt operations in the north, which has suffered one of the worst drought for decades, and instead move south. .
Wicklow Wolf’s equipment at the Newtownmountkennedy brewery, where it moved in 2019, produced a small amount of water, but it “will make it more difficult for us, if water is rationed”, said Mr Fennelly. “We don’t have a sunken well, which is something we can look at in the future.”
He said that revenues will be “in the region of €5 million” this year, but the company is only targeting a “modest profit” due to a challenging cost environment, which has seen an increase in the price of malt 20 percent and an increase in the price of hops 10 -15 percent, with an increase in packaging costs as well.
Mr Fennelly said it had avoided rising product prices so far, but the higher costs would not be absorbed by the business forever.
The craft brewery — which counts Bono, the Edge and Hozier among its backers — has emerged from the pandemic in better shape than it expected when the crisis first hit. At that time, 50 percent of its sales were through on-trade.
“I honestly thought we weren’t going to survive,” Mr Fennelly said. But the company fortunately installed a canning line, which allowed it to increase the production of different types of cans to meet the large demand from home drinkers. “We’re canning around the clock.”
Sales of cans trebled during this period – “we sold a lot of beer to people who had never had Wicklow Wolf before” – and had a positive knock-on effect on his on-trade. sales when the pubs reopened. “Now we’re going gangbusters on kegs. We are ahead of where we were before Covid. “