Hawaii is known for its abundance of sunshine. Pretty soon, the state’s largest brewery will be getting all its energy from that very source. Maui Brewing Company — makers of beers like Coconut Hiwa Porter and Bikini Blonde that have found fans far away from the brand’s home island — recently told Pacific Business Newsthis link opens in a new tab that the brewery is slated to be running on 100 percent renewable energy later this year, making it the first grid-independent brewery of its size in America.
Originally launched in 2005, in 2012, Maui moved into a larger production facility in Kihei which is where the path towards grid-independence began, starting with solar-powered parking lot lamps and continuing on with high-tech additions like massive swaths of solar panels, Tesla battery storage systems, and a couple biofuel generators. “In total we’re probably north of $9 million at this point, closer to the $10 million,” co-founder Garrett Marrero told Pacific Business News of the project’s expense. “We still have to do the final accounting.”
Of course, energy independence has business benefits, helping to control costs and ensure against market fluctuations, which Marrero described as “a competitive advantage.” But he also believes it offers a compelling message to drinkers as well. “Maui Brewing Co. is built upon authenticity, innovation and a sense of place,” Marrero told me via email. “‘Sense of Place’ to us isn’t just that we brew only in Hawaii, but that we deeply care for our home state and the environment. I’m certain that craft beer drinkers will be proud of our sustainability pursuits and be stoked that our beer is among the most sustainable in the world. We are after all Hawaii’s most sustainable craft brewery!”
Currently, Maui Brewing only produces about 30 percent of its own energy, but by the end of next month, that percentage is expected to jump to 80 percent. However, the big milestone is planned for the third quarter of the year, which is when Maui hopes to be on 100 percent renewable energy.
Meanwhile, the craft beer world is very trend driven. Is ‘grid-independent’ beer — as Maui Brewing calls it — the next big thing? “Craft beer drinkers in general are very environmentally and community conscious,” Marrero continues. “Knowing that our Hawaiian craft beer is brewed with solar power and recovered carbon dioxide and is generally one of the lowest carbon footprint breweries in the world is something visitors and residents alike can get behind.”
But in the end, Marrero also points out that energy independence isn’t about chasing trends. “Being sustainably-minded feels good and it’s the right thing to do,” he tells me. “Whether you believe in global warming or not, why not be efficient, use clean energy, reduce waste? Would you rather see smokestacks or solar panels? Which just ‘feels’ cleaner? Ultimately, to us, we just feel it’s the right way to manufacture responsibly. We’re proud to lead by example and challenge others to follow suit.”