Brewing up Sustainability: Woodfour Brewing Company

(Sunbeams shine down on the Congenra solar collectors on the roof of Woodfour bewery at the Barlow in Sebastopol. The collectors produce both fuel-free hot water and clean electricity for the brewing operation.)

The Barlow opening in Sebastopol is a big deal. It’s a wonderful new dimension to the Sebastopol community. And there are some big deals within the Barlow like Woodfour Brewing Company that has taken serious steps to walk the sustainability talk.

Seth Wood, the co-owner and operator of Woodfour is proud of what they’ve done in an effort to embrace sustainability in their operations. He explains that the system they installed is a Cogenra Solar system, a co-generation system that produces both clean electricity and hot water from sunshine. “Our main interest in the system is to offset our hot water demands and the system does this well while also producing solar-electric energy, enough to operate the system as well as feed surplus power to the grid.”

The system is similar to one installed by the Sonoma Wine Company in 2011. In that system, fifteen modules displace approximately 64,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 12,500 therms of natural gas annually. The solar thermal element heats water to 165°F for the wine tank cleaning and barrel washing system.

In the case of Woodfour, Seth explains a somewhat different hot water need. “As a brewery our hot water demand is fairly substantial. We use hot water directly for the brewing process; beer is 98% water after all, as well as general cleaning. The system was designed to provide us with ~180°Fwater directly and during peak times should offset nearly 90% of our hot water demands, greatly reducing our dependence on natural gas.”

Water so hot, it needs to be cooled…

“On top of providing hot water for the brewery the system is integrated into our overall hydronic system for the restaurant and supplies, the kitchen, bathroom, and bar with hot water. In fact we have to temper the hot water down to manageable temperature at these location so as not to scald guests and employees.”

Multiple benefits…

“In addition to direct hot water usage we installed a radiant heating system under the floor slab of the restaurant so that during the winter months we will utilize the hot water from the solar system to provide all of the energy required to heat and condition the space!”

There’s more to come!

“Some further steps we are taking to improve our efficiency and sustainability including connecting hot water discharge points in the brewing system back into the overall hydronic system so that we can reclaim expended energy from the brewing process and further use that to offset our hot water demands.”

Woodfour demonstrates that just about any business can take action to address the climate crisis at the micro level. In this case, micro-brew level. At Woodfour you can enjoy an extensive selection of draft and bottled beers and pair it with excellent food sourced locally and prepared fresh by acclaimed chefs Jamil Peden and Matthew. Find out more at

Economics of Solar — Dec 4

The Economics of Solar

December 4, 8:30 A.M. to 5 P.M.

Presented by the Solar Action Alliance

This class helps PV dealers, installers, and salespeople make the best and most accurate financial case to their customers to help them make more sales and open more eyes to the value of solar systems.

Andy Black will provide an overview of solar electric (PV) system costs and savings for commercial & residential systems in an interactive environment. He will provide detailed information on state & federal incentives available (tailored to the local market) and how to use them. These include rebates, Feed-In-Tariffs, SRECs, performance based incentives, the Federal ITC, state tax credits, and MACRS depreciation.

He will explain electric rate structures and how to choose the best alternative given the advantages of each relative to building load profile, system design, and site specifics (shading, orientation, etc).

This class qualifies for 7 to 8 NABCEP Continuing Education Credit Hours (depending on class length).

Contact Person: Alison Healy


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Marin Builders Association
660 Las Gallinas Ave
San Rafael, California

Cost: Free

Solar power for $20

As I was taking my laundry off the line on Sunday, I felt a rush from that special smell of sun dried clothing. No toxic fabric softener can duplicate it.

I also remembered hearing that this Friday is National Hanging Out Day, when we are all supposed to hang our clothes on the line and talk to each other about line drying. So I looked up Project Laundry List, which sponsors the event.

Their research shows that I can save up to $25 per month by not using my dryer. Thinking about that for a minute, I realize that line drying is the cheapest form of solar power. For a $16 clothesline and $4 worth of clothespins, I can go solar for some of my energy needs.

Project Laundry List also reminds us that line dried clothes last longer (think about all that lint) and that being active and outside makes you happy. If only it could sort our socks.

Plus, of course, line drying doesn’t pollute. It’s great when you can take an activity’s emissions to zero. If all Americans used a clothesline for ten months of the year, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12 million tons.

Project Laundry List also says that only four percent of Italian households have a dryer. Maybe it’s not the red wine that helps Italians live so long after all. I think it’s that fresh clothes smell.

   – Brad Heavner

Solar arrays are not farms


As the Renewable Energy Implementation Manager for the Climate Protection Campaign, you might think I support installing solar panels anywhere, any time, any way. The reality is that there are better and worse places to locate renewables, including solar.

A recent article in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat describes a trend in large-scale energy development – covering prime agricultural land in the San Joaquin Valley with huge solar arrays. Prime agricultural land is a poor place for solar, and not where we expect to deploy renewables in Community Choice energy programs like Sonoma Clean Power.

The best place for solar is close to where the power is used in the built environment – on residential rooftops, warehouses, parking shade structures, and land that is not suitable for farming or other useful purposes. As local energy planning bodies, Community Choice energy programs are well-suited to help develop clean local power as the backbone of a resilient 21st century power system, and solar should help with that, not run counter to it.

Fortunately some counties have good laws on the books that protect valuable farmland and the right to farm it. California has set laudable goals for renewables to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and some counties in the state are responding by revising their renewable energy codes to make it easier to set up renewable power projects while still protecting our prime agricultural resources.

The U.S. EPA has the right idea by carrying out a survey of the brownfields, or sites that are no longer suitable for farming due to prior industrial or commercial use, but that may be appropriate for solar. It’s called the Renewable Energy Siting Tool and it is available to all developers of renewable power. Tell your friends who were planning on carpeting 500 acres of farmland with solar panels about this handy map-based tool. Let’s start with roofs, parking lots and brownfields.

  – Woody Hastings

Hans-Josef Fell, Energy Guru of the German Parliament

Dinner with Hans-Josef Fell, Energy Guru of the German Parliament

This past Sunday I was fortunate to have the opportunity to share a fun dinner in San Francisco with Hans-Josef Fell, Green Party member of the German Parliament, and co-founder in 2000 of the German feed-in tariff law that has resulted in Germany becoming number one in solar, wind, and biogas generation. A feed-in tariff is a requirement that utilities pay a reasonable price for clean power fed into the grid from solar, wind, and other renewables. Sonoma Clean Power will have the ability to establish its own feed-in tariff.

In a lively two-hour discussion about all things renewable energy, Herr Fell, a trained physicist, confirmed that we are on the right path in Sonoma County on several fronts including Sonoma Clean Power focusing on the development of new local generation.

Hans-Josef is in town for the international solar power conference InterSolar, and to promote his new book “Global Cooling: Strategies for Climate Protection.”

You can find out more about the book, and how to buy a copy, here:




Arguments against wind, solar power don’t add up

Press Democrat:  By Geof Syphers and Carl Mears, June 18, 2011
“Robert Bryce’s conclusions about solar and wind in his attack on California’s renewable energy standards are dead wrong (“When wind and solar power don’t add up,” Sunday Forum, June 12).

First, his assumption that solar power requires large centralized systems located in far away deserts is false. In fact, installing solar panels on homes, businesses and parking lots close to where the electricity is consumed is preferable to remote big systems. Huge benefits accrue by avoiding the costs and negative land impacts from new swaths of transmission lines,and the energy line losses that occur when transmitting electricity long distances.” For the complete editorial >

Geof Syphers is a consultant for designing green buildings and is chief sustainability officer for Codding Enterprises. Carl Mears is a contributing author to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a member of the board of the Climate Protection Campaign.