Acre Distilling: Harnessing the power of the sun – and parking lots

Acre Distilling: Harnessing the power of the sun – and parking lots

Running a distillery requires a lot of costly electric power. Among the various machines at Acre Distilling Co. on Calhoun Street are four fermenters, distillates and a giant chiller – all requiring continuous upkeep and energy to run.

After mashing grains, boiling liquids, removing ethanol and weeks-long fermentation and condensation, the distillery produces about 400 gallons – that amounts to about 2,000 bottles – of spirits per month on average.

Acre Distillery pays about $2,000 per month for power to run the entire facility.

But, says owner Tony Formby that cost will drop to zero with the “Green Acre” initiative – switching to renewable energy.

“It makes economic sense,” Formby said.

The plan involves reconstructing the distillery’s worn-out parking lot, located at the intersection of 12th and Jones streets.

The business is building two large structures the length of the lot to provide cover and shade for the parked cars.

About 350 solar panels on the roof of the parking shelter will generate 104% of the distillery’s power requirements, according to the project design plans.

The project will yield profit for the business, Formby said.

“I’m doing it because I can offset all of my electricity, I can increase my parking revenue and drive more customers to my business,” Formby said. “I want other businesses in Fort Worth to see this and consider doing something like this themselves.”

Acre Distilling currently rents out about 40 parking spots in the lot, which sits nearby Fort Worth Central Station, Fort Worth Convention Center and numerous other offices and businesses. The parking rates are expected to increase upon completion of the project.

The parking lot remodeling also includes constructing a covered patio deck and installing two high-speed electric car charging stations for its bar patrons.

Formby hired Fort Worth-based Circle L Solar to build the project. The project is estimated to cost a little over $400,000, a risky investment for Acre Distilling as it is trying to scale its distribution business and reach larger markets.

However, in the long-run, solar energy would be cost-effective, said Formby, who was a former fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory-sponsored Colorado Cleantech Institute.

As technology improved, the cost of photovoltaic solar panels, which absorb sunlight to generate current electricity, has decreased substantially in recent years.

According to EnergySage, an online marketplace for solar energy providers, the current cost of installing solar panels has fallen by almost 65%, at $2.99 per watt, compared to prices in 2009.

“I think there’s a lot of people like me that believe climate change is a big problem, and we got to do everything we can to get off fossil fuels,” Formby said.

Acre’s renewable energy conversion project is also eligible to receive approximately $130,000 in federal tax credit.

In line with the eco-friendly ideas, Acre Distillery is also eliminating single-use plastics, like cups and straws, at its bar, Hell’s Half Acre Bar.

Customers can also return glass bottles to the facility that Acre will buy it back for $1 or provide a 10% discount on any retail purchase. Acre will then recycle and reuse all the returns.

Formby has filed for permits with the City of Fort Worth to rebuild the parking lot. The concrete paving of the lot will likely be done this month.

The complete project is projected to complete by January 2020.

“It’s going to act like a destination for both the distillery but also for anybody interested in renewable energy, who are going to want to come and see what we’re doing here,” Formby said.

“It will be unique. It will be different. Plus, it will get that whole area cleaned up, which the city is very happy about.”

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