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Ossie Bladine  |  obladine@newsregister.com

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BEER POWER! 7 Devils Turns to Solar

 

This winter, Coos Bay faced a long, storm-spawned power outage. In one of the city’s few buildings with juice, 7 Devils Brewing Co. kept its pints flowing.


“We’re stoked we could provide that,” brewmaster/co-owner Carmen Matthews said. “Pubs in general are great meeting places, especially when something like power gets disrupted. Heat, light and cold beer? That’s back to the basics.”


In what today often hosts community education events, private parties and live music, the Ford Building reopened in 2013 after being rebuilt with efficiency in mind. Out front is a rain garden and a ChargePoint for electric cars; inside are LED lights and recycled building materials; up top is a 12-kilowatt photovoltaic array — a solar panel grid — half of which powers the 7 Devils restaurant and part of its 15-barrel brewhouse.


Installed by Sol Coast (another Ford Building tenant), the system was made by Hillsboro-based SolarWorld. In its first year on solar, 7 Devils lowered its overhead costs and offset about 14 tons of carbon dioxide.

 

“Any kind of energy production here at home is much more efficient than having our energy come from Bonneville Dam,” Matthews said. “We’re happy to be taking steps toward getting closer to what would be called net-zero, meaning all of our energy is produced onsite. We aren’t quite there yet, but we’re always looking for new ways we can potentially reduce the energy loads we’re using and for ways to boost production.”


In 2017, the brewery reserved funding from Energy Trust of Oregon and, helped by Sol Coast, submitted an application for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program, mainly for the installation of a 14 kilowatt photovoltaic array, doubling the Ford Building’s solar panels and shooting more power to the brewhouse. If awarded, the grant will allow 7 Devils to save for another battery backup system.


“The brewery uses so much energy,” Matthews said, “so anything helps. If we get the grant, the return on investment is about a year and a half — super quick, even with a very large expense. It’ll help offset our costs, but even with these two arrays, we won’t be running the entire business on solar. The brewery itself takes up more of the energy costs, partially because of all the cooler space. Those big walk-in coolers consume a lot of energy; that’s where most of our power gets zapped. But we aim to take a big bite out of it overall.”

 
Matthews and his wife (and brewery co-owner/CEO) Annie Pollard also use arrays to power their home, 1 mile from the brewery. Their array provides 85 percent of their home’s energy, including the charging of the couple’s Ford C-Max, a hybrid electric car.


“7 Devils is a steward of the environmental movement here in Coos Bay,” Sol Coast’s Ciera Milkewicz said. “Annie and Carmen have done everything they can to be a model for sustainability — they’ve been a catalyst for so much positive change in our downtown revival.” •

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